The founder of the anti-immigration, anti-Islam movement Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of Europe, commonly known as Pegida, will appear in court on Tuesday to face charges of inciting hatred in October 2015.
German national Lutz Bachmann was charged after allegedly calling refugees “filth” and “cattle” on his Facebook page.
He was charged with inciting hatred against refugees after a court said his comments were disrupting public order and an attack of the dignity of refugees, AFP reports.
The trial will take place in Dresden, stronghold and founding city of the movement, and will be held under tight security. Bachmann could be sentenced to up to five years in prison if he is found guilty.
Bachmann has previously been convicted for robberies, violence, and trafficking cocaine and spent 14 months in prison in Germany after having fled to South Africa, according to AFP. He was also forced to step down as leader of the movement last year after posting a picture of himself appearing to pose as Adolf Hitler, France24 reports.
Pegida has been gaining in popularity in recent months as Germany is grappling to accommodate and integrate the million of mostly Muslim refugees that made their way to the country in 2015.
Pegida is known for organising mass protests across Germany to protest for the expulsion of refugees, and calls to close borders to Muslim refugees and migrants.
The group was founded in the fall of 2014 and initially drew just a few hundred supporters, before gaining strength, peaking with rallies of up to 25,000 people in 2015.
In recent months, support for the German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been dwindling and movements like Pegida and the anti-immigration party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) have seen a rapid gain in popularity.
The AfD has also been criticised after after one of its MEPs, Beatrix von Storch, said that Islam was not compatible with the German constitution. The party also announced plans to ban minarets and burquas, which prompted German Muslims to liken the party to Hitler’s Nazis.
“It is the first time since Hitler’s Germany that a whole religious community is discredited and existentially threatened,” Aiman Mazyek, head of Germany’s Central Council of Muslims, told German television, according to Reuters.
Bachmann, who denies being a racist or an extremist, will be tried for three days, AFP reports.