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Defendant, Judge Beese: First instance verdict overturned

Photo: Uli Deck / dpa

The Karlsruhe Higher Regional Court (OLG) has overturned an acquittal for coercion in the case of a road blockade by a climate activist. A fundamental decision as to whether this case constituted criminal coercion was not made. The judgment of the Freiburg District Court, which acquitted a 32-year-old, was too incomplete and partly contradictory to be able to judge this, explained the presiding judge of the 2nd Criminal Senate of the Karlsruhe Higher Regional Court, Annette Beese. In one case, the district court assumed a maximum delay of 45 minutes due to the blockade, although according to the judgment, the defendant was only carried away by the police an hour and a half after the blockade began.

It was about the case of a 32-year-old who had taken part in several road blockades organized by the Last Generation Alliance. During one of the blockades, the activists sat and stuck themselves on a motorway access road near Freiburg. This temporarily caused traffic jams of up to 18 kilometers long on the motorway. Although the defendant had not stuck himself in place, he had to be carried away. Since he had planned the act together with others, the actions of the other protesters were attributed to him. According to the district court's findings, the aim of the campaign was to point out the high CO₂ emissions caused by car traffic, but also the food waste caused by supermarkets.

The district court acquitted the defendant in November 2022. According to the ruling at the time, the actions were not reprehensible in the legal sense and therefore not punishable because of the intended protest against climate policy that was considered inadequate. This would only have been the case if he had endangered other road users. The public prosecutor's office appealed against this legal assessment.

The Higher Regional Court now decided: The substantive concern pursued by the blockade - the fight against climate change - is legally irrelevant, contrary to what the district court assumed. In addition, the defendant could invoke the state's constitutional duty to protect the natural foundations of life. However, the only “addressees of the duty of protection” are state organs, not the blocked drivers. The district court “did not take sufficient consideration” of this either.

The case was therefore referred back to the district court. According to Judge Beese, new findings “on the effects of the act” would now have to be made by another chamber of the district court; Otherwise, the district court's findings were upheld, so that the case does not have to be reopened completely.

At the end of the oral reasons for the judgment, the presiding judge Beese gave the district court a legal hint: Accordingly, regardless of the outstanding findings, in the present case it is “rather unlikely” that the coercion should not be viewed as reprehensible.