German artist Jonathan Meese wins Nazi salute case

German artist Jonathan Meese gives a Nazi salute while performing 'Generaltanz den Erzschiller' on stage at the National Theatre in Mannheim, western Germany, on 26 June, 2013
Image caption German artist Jonathan Meese claimed he has the right to artistic freedom

A German artist prosecuted for performing Nazi salutes in what he said was an artistic gesture has been acquitted.

"Art has triumphed," Jonathan Meese said after the verdict in a court in Kassel. "Now I am free."

Nazi symbols and gestures are banned in Germany, but Meese's lawyers had argued that the constitution protects artistic freedom.

Meese, 43, is a painter who also directs stage performances.

He has been hired by the world-famous Wagner Festival in Bayreuth to produce Parsifal there in 2016.

He was accused in court of twice making a Nazi salute at an event called "Megalomania in the Art World" at Kassel University in June last year.

But the court agreed with the defence that the gesture was part of an interview-turned-art performance.

Meese has argued that his use of the Hitler salute and the swastika symbol are satirical and aim to diminish, not increase, their potency.

He has in his manifestos called for a "dictatorship of art" and, after his acquittal on Wednesday, said his vision was alive and well.

"I am very satisfied, happy," he said, adding that he would continue "fighting for the dictatorship of art and the absence of ideology".

"There won't be any [political] parties anymore. There will be the rule of art then, the takeover of, the dictatorship of art, that's great," he said.

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