Lawyer for alleged Montreal neo-Nazi says article was 'in bad taste' but didn't incite hate

The defence presented its closing arguments in the case of Montrealer Gabriel Sohier-Chaput, charged with spreading online hate. His article may been distasteful but it wasn't designed to foment hate, his lawyer argued.

Crown's closing arguments will be heard in July

Gabriel Sohier-Chaput walks the halls of the courthouse in Montreal on Monday, Feb.28, 2022. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

The lawyer for an alleged Montreal neo-Nazi tried to downplay her client's actions in closing arguments Friday, saying they were "in bad taste" but did not foment hate.

Gabriel Sohier-Chaput, 35, admitted to writing between 800 and 1,000 articles, under the pseudonym "Zeiger," for the far-right online publication the Daily Stormer. He has pleaded not guilty to a single count of wilful promotion of hate propaganda against Jewish people.

The case hinges on a single article entitled "Canada: Nazis Trigger Jews By Putting Up Posters On Ch--k Church," using a racial slur to refer to the Asian community.

Using antisemitic memes and editorial comments, the article celebrated neo-Nazi posters pasted on a bus stop in British Columbia, and insulted a Holocaust survivor who had been interviewed about the incident.

Sohier-Chaput testified in his own defence on Tuesday before Quebec court Judge Manlio Del Negro at the Montreal courthouse, saying his writing was intended to be inflammatory but satirical.

He also claimed cruder references toward Jewish people were added by Daily Stormer founder and editor Andrew Anglin after his draft was submitted.

The defendant's lawyer, Hélène Poussard, argued that even if Sohier-Chaput had added the antisemitic comments and memes himself, a reasonable person would not be incited to feel hatred toward Jewish people after reading them. 

"He's allowed to hate Jews. He's allowed to hate Black people. He can hate all humanity if he wants to. What he's not allowed to do is incite hate," said Poussard.

The defence's closing argument took over four hours. The trial will resume on July 8, when it will be the Crown's turn for closing arguments.