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Australian facing a year in jail for a hand gesture says the government is trying to imprison him for his political views

A Victorian man facing a year in jail for allegedly performing a Nazi salute says he is being persecuted for his political opinions.

Jacob Hersant, 24, spoke out in a short video shared on social media on Tuesday evening saying: “The Australian government is trying to throw me in prison, in solitary confinement, for up to a year, because they allege that I gave a political salute, the Roman salute.”

“These laws are against freedom of expression. They are built on emotion, and they are anti-White,” he continued.

“This government cannot claim to be a democracy, it cannot claim to be liberal, when it is trying to imprison its opponents for simply speaking against them. This country should have freedom of expression. We should be allowed to express ourselves when the government is pursuing policy that is not to our interests.”

Hersant, a leading figure in right wing activist group National Socialist Network, appeared in Melbourne Magistrates’ Court earlier on Tuesday for a hearing where he had his case adjourned until February 2 so he could reapply for legal aid.

Magistrate Peter Reardon asked the prosecution what penalty they were seeking if Hersant was found guilty and was told the maximum one-year sentence was a possibility.

“I just think that it’s absurd that we’re supposed to live in a democracy yet the government is trying to jail me for moving my arm in a particular way and in a particular gesture,” Hersant told reporters outside court.

Hersant was charged six days after it became illegal in Victoria to intentionally display a Nazi gesture or symbol in public.

Since then Australia’s parliament has passed federal legislation making it a criminal offence punishable by up to one year in jail to perform the Hitler salute or display the swastika or SS symbol in public.

The ban also covers the sale and trade of those symbol, and came into effect on January 8.

Free speech advocates have expressed concerns over the new legislation which also covers “extremist violent material”, but the Opposition has promised to seek a review and expand the laws further if advised to by members of the Jewish community.

 

 

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