A political activist who controversially claims to have founded a sovereign state within Germany was sentenced to three years and eight months in prison on Wednesday, according to German media.
Peter Fitzek is best known as the self-professed “king” of “New Germany,” a nine-hectare property outside the eastern city of Wittenberg. In 2009, Mr. Fitzek founded a community of 3,500 voluntary citizens living there, and declared it a kingdom with its own currency, passports and social security. He and “New Germany” gained international recognition after being the subject of an online documentary by news organization Vice.
However, Mr. Fitzek has been convicted of breaching lending and trust laws, having operated banking and insurance businesses without proper permits between 2009 and 2013. More than 350 people invested €2.3 million with the “king” believing their cash to be more secure than at a traditional bank. Prosecution claims €1.3 million was used for his own personal purposes.
In court on Wednesday, the newspaper Berliner Zeitung reported that Mr. Fitzek appeared in legcuffs, wearing a black-and-gray striped shirt bearing his kingdom’s coat of arms. He maintained his innocence, claiming to have put the money into non-profit structures. He tearfully called for human dignity as a citizen not of Germany, but of his sovereign state of pacifists.
Mr. Fitzek was already serving another sentence after being caught with a fake driver’s licence eight times. In 2012 he gave up his real license in favor of a homemade copy, which he claimed to be valid in his kingdom.
Barbara Woolsey is a writer for Handelsblatt Global in Berlin. To contact the author: firstname.lastname@example.org