A popular YouTuber was convicted of a hate crime in Britain on Tuesday after teaching a pet dog to give a Nazi salute and posting the video online.
Mark Meechan, better known as Count Dankula, was found guilty under the Communications Act after posting a video showing his girlfriend’s dog reacting to phrases such as “Sieg Heil" and "Gas the Jews" with what appears to be a Nazi salute.
Sheriff Derek O'Carroll said Meechan’s video was “grossly offensive” and did not buy the man’s defense that it was merely a joke to annoy his girlfriend, the Herald Scotland reported.
The YouTuber’s case became widely known after he was arrested in 2016 when the video went viral.
Suzanne Kelly, the girlfriend, defended Meechan last year in court, saying he is not anti-Semitic and has “always been very supportive towards minority groups,” according to the paper.
"[The dog] will lift his paw to virtually anything if he gets a treat for it. We have taught him to lift his paw to food, like ham or cheese,” she also said in court. "They were just words to make him lift his paw and I know those words were used in the context of the video.
Tuesday’s shock verdict prompted support from comedian Ricky Gervais, who tweeted: “A man has been convicted in a UK court of making a joke that was deemed 'grossly offensive'. If you don't believe in a person's right to say things that you might find 'grossly offensive', then you don't believe in Freedom of Speech."
Speaking after the verdict, Meechan said: "There has been a huge miscarriage of justice.
"I think it is a very, very dark day in terms of freedom of speech and freedom of expression. One of the primary things that must be considered in cases like this is context and intent and today context and intent were completely disregarded,” he continued.
"For the system to actually disregard such things means that your actions no longer matter - they decide what your context and intent is.
"For any comedians making jokes in Britain, I'd be very, very worried about your future because - the context and intent - apparently they don't matter anymore."
Meechan's sentencing date is set for April 23.