Klaus-Juergen Schmid, a judge in the Bavarian town of Miesbach, has ordered a crucifix to be removed from the courtroom during the trial of a 21-year-old Afghan asylum-seeker accused of making death threats to another Afghan who converted to Christianity.
Initially reported last week, the story received wider coverage later with people on social media weighing in. Shortly after the case was made public, Schmid began receiving “angry emails” accusing him of removing a symbol of Germany’s “cultural and religious sovereignty.”
“The blood shed by the hands of the defendant will be partly due to you,” the judge quoted one of the comments as saying. This is despite the judge’s claim that he imposed the maximum penalty on the defendant.
“I can’t believe it,” one Facebook user, Otti Friedrich, wrote. “The judge just has to realize where he lives, in a Christian country? Or did I miss something?”
Another person said: “Sorry, but this judge is dishonorable… There are laws in Germany and judges should adhere to them. Poor Germany, everyone is only thinking of our government in the first place. We are foreigners in our own country.”
Explaining his move, Schmid said that there is no law that requires having a crucifix in the courtroom in the first place. He also said he wanted to show the Afghan man that his decision is not a reflection or a sign of conflict between Christians and Muslims.
“So I did not think it would be proper to convict him under the cross – that was the issue,” he said, as quoted by Bayerischer Rundfunk.
The judge said that he does not want to have the crucifix in the courtroom anymore. “After Bavarian Judicial Law was changed so that neither crosses nor headscarves should be worn by judges during trials, I do not believe it is right that religious symbols should hang in the courtroom,” he said.
The Afghan defendant, meanwhile, said he did not mind being tried under the crucifix. “I don’t care if there’s a cross hanging in the courtroom,” he told Bild newspaper, as cited by Rosenheim24.
The man, who claims to have fled Afghanistan because the Taliban threatened his father, added: “I’m a normal person, I’m not a [Muslim] believer, I have Christian friends.”