A man who trained a dog to perform a Nazi salute when he said “sieg heil” or “gas the Jews”, has been found guilty of a hate crime.
Mark Meechan, of Coatbridge, Lanarkshire was convicted on Tuesday at Airdrie Sheriff’s Court in Scotland. The sentencing will take place on April 23 – with Meechan released on bail until then.
The 30-year-old, who describes himself on Twitter as a “professional sh*tposter”, was arrested in 2016 after uploading a video clip to YouTube called “M8 Yer Dugs A Nazi”, which was viewed more than a million times.
He denied any wrongdoing, claiming he taught the pug the salute in an effort to annoy his girlfriend, who owned the dog.
At the beginning of the video, Meechan can be heard saying: “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.”
Defending himself in the wake of his arrest, Meechan described the Holocaust as “an awful thing, and should never have happened, but, we still joke about it, because in our eyes laughing about terrible things often make them easier to deal with.
“I don’t actually hate Jewish people and the video was just an insight into the darker side of my humour, a prank to annoy my girlfriend and that I did not intend for people, other than people who knew my comedy, to see the video.” He apologised for any offence caused.
However, Sheriff O'Carroll judged the video to be antisemitic, describing it as "a reasonable conclusion that the video was grossly offensive.
"The accused knew that the material was offensive and knew why it was offensive. He would have known it was grossly offensive to many Jewish people."
The Sheriff also said he did not believe Meechan had only made the video to annoy his girlfriend, and that Meechan leaving his video up on YouTube had been an attempt to drive traffic to his other online content.
"This court has taken the freedom of expression into consideration", Sheriff O'Carroll said.
"But the right to freedom of expression also comes with responsibility."
During the trial, Ephraim Borowski, director of the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (SCoJeC) told the court the video was extremely offensive.
“In many ways, the bit I found most offensive was the repetition of ‘gas the Jews’ rather than the dog itself”, he said.
“The other thing that struck me was the explicit statement that this was intended to give offence and intended to be the most offensive thing he could think of and then he says he isn’t a racist. But unfortunately we hear that all the time from people.
“I’m no historian but it is the marching signal of the Nazi stormtroopers who contributed and supported the murder of six million Jews, including members of my own family, and I take this all slightly personally”, Mr Borowski continued, adding that the SCoJeC website had been “bombarded with abusive comments” after the video appeared online.
“Material of this kind goes to normalise the antisemitic views that frankly we thought we had seen the last of”, he said.
“The Holocaust is not a subject for jocular content.”