A Scottish man who was convicted of a hate crime for teaching his girlfriend’s dog to do the Nazi salute was fined £800 in the Airdrie Sheriff’s Court in Scotland, on Monday.
Mark Meechan, 29, was convicted last month for posting a “grossly offensive” video to YouTube.
Meechan taught the pug, named Buddha, to respond with the Nazi salute when prompted by statements such as “Heil Hitler” and “Gas the Jews.” He said on the video that he trained the dog to annoy his girlfriend.
“The centerpiece of your video consists of you repeating the phrase, ‘Gas the Jews’ over and over again as a command to a dog, which then reacts,” Sheriff Derek O’Carroll said in his sentencing, according to British media. “‘Gas the Jews’ in one form or another is repeated by you 23 times within a few minutes,” he added.
“On the whole evidence, including your own,” O’Carroll said, “I found it proved that the video you posted, using a public communications network, was grossly offensive and contained menacing, anti-Semitic and racist material.”
Meechan said he would appeal the ruling. “I’m not going to pay the fine because we are going to appeal,” he said outside the court. “This sets a very dangerous precedent because the court is deciding what people can say.”
Meechan’s lawyer, Ross Brown, said, “This court made Mark Meechan a criminal. Up until this point, he was a man who had no involvement with the law. He considered himself a liberal man. To be branded a criminal is a punishment.”
Brown said that even the police had not initially seen the prank as a crime.
“The difficulty it seems is that he was someone who enjoyed shock humor, both giving receiving it, and went about his life under the impression that he lived in a jurisdiction which gave him the right to fully express himself,” he told reporters. “This was not the perception Police Scotland had on receiving a notice that the video had been posted online.”
Former far-right leader, free-speech activist and self-proclaimed Zionist, Tommy Robinson, who accompanied Meechan, said the decision made the Jewish community look bad.
“I think the police have used the Jewish community in this instance to silence people and they’ve actually tried to tarnish the Jewish community as though they can’t take a joke,” he said outside the court. “At worst it is distasteful humor, it certainly is not inciting religious hatred against Jews.”
British Jewish comedian David Baddiel wrote earlier this month that he was conflicted as to whether he should support Meechan, because he was attempting comedy, or whether it was a textbook case of anti-Semitism taken straight from the web-pages of the neo-Nazi site, the Daily Stormer.
The original video, posted in September 2016 on his YouTube channel, Count Dankula, was viewed more than 2.8 million times before it was removed for violating YouTube’s policy on hate speech.
“My girlfriend is always ranting and raving about how cute and adorable her wee dog is, so I thought I would turn him into the least cute thing I could think of, which is a Nazi,” he said.
Meechan later posted a video in which he apologized for the original dog clips, saying it was a joke and that he has no such political leanings.
“I am so sorry to the Jewish community for any offense I have caused them. This was never my intention and I apologize,” he said.
JTA contributed to this report.