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Court acquits German coronavirus denier of incitement over Israel remarks

BERLIN (AP) — A prominent critic of Germany's pandemic restrictions who repeatedly spread false information about the coronavirus has been acquitted of incitement to hatred for comments about Jews and Israel.

A regional court in the northern town of Ploen ruled Tuesday that Thai-German microbiologist Sucharit Bhakdi didn't break the law when he described Israel as worse than Nazi Germany.

In a video published online in 2021, Bhakdi also said that “the terrible thing about Jews is: they learn well” and described the country of Israel as a “living hell.”

The court concluded that it couldn't be determined without reasonable doubt that Bhakdi had been spreading antisemitic hatred toward Jews rather than criticizing the Israeli government and its policies, German news agency dpa reported.

Prosecutors had argued that such comments could lead to Jews in Germany becoming the targets of hatred.

Judges also said that Bhakdi's claims about the COVID vaccine being part of a second Holocaust didn't constitute a downplaying of the Nazi genocide which killed 6 million Jews, public broadcaster NDR reported.

Bhakdi, who was greeted by dozens of supporters as he arrived at the court, could have faced a fine if convicted.

The ruling can be appealed.