Prosecutors began and wrapped up their case on Monday in the trial of a Montreal man accused of fomenting hate against Jewish people.
Gabriel Sohier-Chaput, who went by the online moniker Zeiger, is facing one count of wilful promotion of hatred in connection with a blog post from January 2017 on the far-right, neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer. Sohier-Chaput, 35, pleaded not guilty to the single count.
Sohier-Chaput has admitted during the legal proceedings to being Zeiger, to having published articles for the Daily Stormer in 2016 and 2017 under that pseudonym, and to having partly authored the post for which he is facing a trial.
Crown prosecutor Patrick Lafrenière argued in court on Monday that Sohier-Chaput alone authored the short blog post, which called for Nazi imagery to be distributed “everywhere” in order to upset as many Jewish people as possible.
“Essentially, the evidence will show that about January 2017, the accused was an editor for a web publication called the Daily Stormer, a far-right publication,” Lafrenière told the court in his opening statement.
“What the court will have to determine is if we’re talking about voluntarily fomenting hate against an identifiable group.”
The blog post on the far-right website refers to a 2017 Global News article about Nazi posters showing up in New Westminster, B.C., and about a Holocaust survivor’s reaction to the hateful imagery. The blog post includes racist images and comments about Jewish people throughout.
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“We need to make sure no SJW (social justice warrior) or Jew can remain safely untriggered,” the post read in part. “Non-stop Nazism, everywhere, until the very streets are flooded with the tears of our enemies.”
Upon conviction, the charge carries a maximum sentence of two years.
The charge against Sohier-Chaput came after the Canadian Anti-Hate Network made a criminal complaint in May 2018 — the same month a series of articles in the Montreal Gazette described him as a prominent neo-Nazi figure in North America. B’nai Brith later also filed their own criminal complaint against the 35-year-old.
Sohier-Chaput made his first court appearance in late 2020.
Two Crown witnesses appeared before Quebec court Judge Manilo Del Negro on Monday, both members of the Montreal police cybercrime unit. They testified on the first day of the trial to having searched in 2018 for online content under the name “Zeiger.”
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Officer Sébastien Pelletier-Langlois said his search revealed more than 800 articles with the Zeiger pseudonym listed as the author. He said the article connected to the charge against Sohier-Chaput was still online as of last week.
But under cross-examination from the defence, neither police officer said they could definitively say whether the post had been edited, posted or modified by someone else, or who added the racist images.
“He admits to having written the article — in part,” defence lawyer Hélène Poussard told the court on Monday.
The defence will have its turn to present evidence when the case resumes on Tuesday.
–with files from Alessia Simona Maratta, Global News