German court fines man $2,300 for SMS message

A man keys in a message onto a mobile phone in a Milan bar March 3, 2006. REUTERS/Daniele LA Monaca

BERLIN (Reuters) - A court in Germany fined a man 1,800 euros ($2,300) for inadvertently passing on an SMS text message which told the recipient they had just killed a Turk by opening it, his lawyer said Friday.

Shortly before Germany defeated Turkey in last year’s Euro 2008 soccer tournament, the 28-year-old sent a message that in German read “by opening this SMS, you have killed a Turk.”

The recipient was also urged to forward the SMS to encourage a “clean” tournament, landing the man in court charged with inciting racial hatred, his lawyer Karl Laible said Friday. About 3 percent of Germany’s population are of Turkish origin.

However, the court in the southern town of Lindau dropped the charge -- which could have led to a prison sentence -- in exchange for the fine due to uncertainty about the accusation and the man’s motive, he told Reuters.

The man had been forwarded the message and accidentally sent it to the name at the top of his phone’s address book last June, Laible said, adding that he had done so only once.

“The only reason the SMS became known about was because the home of the man he sent it to was searched by police. His mobile was confiscated and that’s when the SMS was found.”

“It’s a farcical story really: my client is a conscientious objector and his brother-in-law is a Turk,” Laible said.

Reporting by Dave Graham; Editing by Dominic Evans