Neo-Nazis put up German election posters saying “hang the Greens”, which, on the grounds of free speech, were allowed to stay up.
The city of Zwickau in eastern Germany had ordered a ban on the posters after they appeared during the general election campaign.
But a court in the state of Saxony overturned the ban, ruling that the posters could stay if they were moved 100 metres away from official Green party advertising.
In a provisional ruling, judges said it was unclear whether strict requirements had been met for limiting free speech during an election campaign.
The decision was met with widespread criticism and is expected to face an appeal by city authorities. Similar posters appeared elsewhere in Germany.
“For us it doesn’t make any difference whether the posters are hanging here or 100m away,” said Zwickau mayor Constance Arndt.
“The demand to hang the Greens is and remains completely unacceptable, undemocratic and irresponsible.”
Josef Schuster, the head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said the ruling left him speechless.
“Right-wing extremists call for violence against the Greens and the court in Chemnitz talks about freedom of speech,” he said. “Seriously? What understanding of democracy does our justice system have?”.
A small neo-Nazi party called The Third Way put its name to the posters, which call on people to “vote German” at the election on September 26.
Germany’s domestic intelligence agency described the party in an annual report as being defined by xenophobia, anti-Semitism and neo-Nazi ideology.
It said the party fundamentally rejects Germany’s liberal democratic order, in particular with its statements on asylum and immigration.
The party won about 12,800 votes at European elections in 2019, less than 0.1 per cent of the total. It has no national or regional representation but is standing in this year’s election.
The Greens are a regular target of far-right activists. Party leader Annalena Baerbock has been targeted by online smear campaigns.
Local Green activists responded with a new poster that mocked the court’s decision by announcing “This poster keeps the surrounding 100m Nazi-free”.
“We find the court decision in Chemnitz very bemusing and surprising,” said Christin Furtenbacher, a spokeswoman for the Greens in Saxony.
“Incitement to murder more than 3,300 members of a democratic party in Saxony, and its supporters, has no place in the public domain.”
The former East Germany is a stronghold of the far right. The Alternative for Germany party topped the poll in Saxony at the 2017 election.