Sucharit Bhakdi’s public profile surged during the pandemic as he spread various false accounts of the coronavirus.
To the consternation of Jewish leaders and politicians engaged in the fight against antisemitism, prosecutors in Germany will not be taking legal action against an outspoken COVID-19 conspiracy theorist who made flagrantly antisemitic comments about Jews and Israel in an online video.
The public prosecutor in the city of Kiel determined that the comments made by Sucharit Bhakdi — a former professor of microbiology whose public profile surged during the pandemic as he spread various false accounts of the coronavirus — did not amount to incitement, the news outlet tagesschau reported on Tuesday.
“The statements of the accused in the video are directed primarily against the State of Israel as such, while drawing on the local policy in the context of measures to curb COVID 19 pandemic concerns,” a statement from the prosecutor’s office explained.
Bhakdi’s video, produced to support his failed parliamentary candidacy on a platform that was grounded on pandemic conspiracy theories, attacked both Jews and Israel by name, however.
He claimed that Jews who had fled the “arch-evil” of Nazi Germany had turned the State of Israel “into something that is even worse than Germany was.”
Continued Bhakdi: “That’s the bad thing about the Jews: They learn well. There is no people that learns better than they do. But they have now learned the evil – and implemented it. That is why Israel is now a living hell.”
The Kiel prosecutor’s decision not to prosecute Bhakdi — a German citizen born in the U.S. to parents who were Thai diplomats — was strongly criticized by senior officials combating rising antisemitism in Germany.
“The prosecutor didn’t even attempt a serious examination of the facts,” Stephan Kramer — a former head of the German Jewish community who now heads the Office for the Protection of the Constitution in the state of Thuringia — told tagesschau. He pointed out that Bhakdi had “specifically addressed Jews, not just the State of Israel.”
Applying Section 130 Germany’s criminal code, which classifies inciting hatred against a specific group as an offense, required “courageous public prosecutors and judges,” Kramer added.
Michael Blume, the leading official tasked with combating antisemitism in the Baden-Württemberg state government, expressed frustration with the decision.
“Right across Germany, we often have sobering experiences with the judiciary,” Blume said. He commented that it was “surprising” that the Kiel prosecutor elected not to take action against Bhakdi.
That concern was echoed by Felix Klein, the German federal government’s top antisemitism official.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has made a major contribution in that antisemitism is now socially acceptable again. What was previously only thought is now being said openly,” Klein told tagesschau. “Unfortunately, this obviously also includes hate speech against Jews and the worst antisemitic conspiracy myths being openly spoken on television cameras.”
Klein argued that the German judiciary needs to be better equipped in identifying and responding to antisemitic incitement. “That’s why I am campaigning for antisemitism officers to be appointed in public prosecutor’s offices in all states,” he said.
Meanwhile, new statistics released by Germany’s government on Monday showed no let-up in the number of antisemitic outrages reported this year, with an average of six incidents targeting Jews every 24 hours.
As of Nov. 5, a total of 1,850 antisemitic crimes had been reported during 2021.