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A German court on Wednesday acquitted controversial Berlin painter Jonathan Meese for performing the outlawed Hitler salute, arguing it was a form of artistic expression.
Raising the right arm in the style of the Nazi dictator is generally illegal in Germany and prosecutors had demanded the 43-year-old be punished with a 12,000 euro ($16,000) fine.
However the court in the central city of Kassel sided with the free-speech argument of the defence and found Meese had used the gesture as part of an interview-turned-art performance.
Meese, also a sculptor and performance artist, was taking part in a forum talk on "megalomania in the art world" with news weekly Der Spiegel at Kassel University in June last year when he twice performed the offending gesture.
"Art has triumphed," Meese said after the verdict was read on Wednesday, national news agency DPA reported. "Now I am free."
Meese, who in his manifestos has called for a "dictatorship of art", has argued his repeated use of the Hitler salute and the swastika symbol are satirical and aim to lessen not promote their potency.
On Wednesday he told the court: "I can paint an apple without ever having eaten an apple. I can do the Hitler salute without having anything to do with it."
Prosecutors were yet to decide whether to appeal the verdict.
© 2013 AFP
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