Online demo is not unlawful

Internet protest against Lufthansa’s deportation activities was legal

Poster of the capmaign »free online protest«

The »free online protest« campaign by the »Libertad!« initiative, funded by the Bridge foundation, was a success: on 22 May 2006, the Higher Regional Court of Frankfurt ruled that the online demonstration against Lufthansa in 2001 did not amount to criminal coercion.

The »free online protest« campaign was started in response to the trial of one of the initiators. Its aim was to defend freedom of speech and freedom of assembly on the internet and the use of the network as a space for political protest. Despite being a virtual space, the internet provides a real public forum. The hope was for a fundamental judgment on whether opinions are allowed to be expressed as freely in online demonstrations as offline.

The campaign has now achieved its main aim: the »Libertad!« activist charged in 2005 by the court of first instance with criminal coercion was acquitted.

The legal dispute arose as a result of Germany’s first online demonstration in 2001, which was promoted by around 250 groups and individuals from human rights organizations, asylum policy, unions and NGOs. More than 10,000 people protested against the involvement of Lufthansa AG in deportations and as a result put its website out of action for a time. The airline reported the case to the police. After four years of criminal investigations, the matter came to trial.

The acquittal makes it clear that the right of freedom of assembly and freedom to form associations – as set out in Art. 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights – is just as valid online as offline!

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