Filed under: Action, Anti-fascist, Quebec
Report from Jaggi Singh on the opening of the criminal trial against neo-Nazi and Daily Stormer author Gabriel Chaput, aka Zeiger.
February 28, 2022, Montreal – The first day of the criminal trial against neo-Nazi propagandist Gabriel Sohier Chaput (aka Zeiger) began earlier today. The prosecution presented two Montreal police “expert” witnesses, and then closed their case after one day. The trial will continue on March 1st, with Zeiger’s lawyers presenting his defense, and possibly final pleadings as well. A more detailed court report is included below, but the day can be summarized as follows: the prosecution and police case is flawed and weak, and Zeiger can very likely receive a not guilty verdict.
By way of background: An arrest warrant was issued by Montreal police in October 30, 2018, months after the pseudonymous identity of neo-Nazi propagandist “Zeiger” was revealed to be Sohier Chaput by journalists and anti-fascist activists in May 2018. It was 21 months later that a defense lawyer appeared in court on Sohier Chaput’s behalf to respond to the warrant.
No Borders Media will be observing and reporting from the trial of the Montreal-area neo-Nazi Gabriel Sohier Chaput (aka "Zeiger"). The trial starts today. Background here from @3rikamorris: https://t.co/2DL9OWJ36I #cdnpoli #antifa
— No Borders Media (@NoBordersMedia) February 28, 2022
Gabriel Sohier Chaput is an important member of an international network of neo-Nazi propagandists, and was a regular contributor to the Daily Stormer website, as well as the now-defunct Iron March web forum. He has contributed to the radicalization of many young white men to Nazism, including individuals involved in violent activities. Sohier Chaput has a clear and long track-record of promoting vile hatred against Jews, Blacks, Muslims, women, trans people, the LGBTQ+ community, migrants and other oppressed groups. He has openly advocated genocide, and celebrated violence, against many of those groups.
For more detailed information about Gabriel Sohier Chaput (aka Zeiger), consult The Montreal Keyboard Nazi who wanted to be Goebbels and Major neo-Nazi figure recruiting in Montreal.
There is clear overwhelming evidence, revealed by anti-fascists and journalists, of Sohier Chaput inciting vicious hatred against various marginalized groups. However, his trial will be technical, about whether one article he wrote on the Daily Stormer website in 2017 incited hatred against Jews, according to Canada’s Criminal Code. A potential not-guilty verdict, on technical legal grounds, does not mean Zeiger is not a neo-Nazi; his fascist propaganda and beliefs are clear. But, one thing he craved and exploited – his anonymity – was taken away from him when his real identity was publicly revealed by anti-fascists. The verdict of this flawed trial will not take away from that significant tactical victory by anti-fascists.
Court Report : Day 1
The trial for Gabriel Sohier Chaput took place at Montreal’s Palais de Justice in French. He opted to have a trial before a judge only, and is charged with willfully promoting hatred against any identifiable group under Section 319(2)(a) of Canada’s Criminal Code. It quickly emerged at trial today that the specific offense alleged against Sohier Chaput is inciting hatred against Jews by writing an anti-Semitic and racist article on the Daily Stormer website in January 2017.
The trial judge is Manlio Del Negro. The prosecutor is Patrick Lafrenière, who is assisted by Montreal police (SPVM) officer Stéphane Roch of the Hate Crimes Unit. Sohier Caput is represented by criminal defence lawyers Hélène Poussard and Vicky Powell. Sohier Chaput was silent, and sat meekly in the prisoner’s box the entire day, and hid from media cameras when outside the courtroom.
Court proceedings began with the prosecutor and defence announcing “admissions,” meaning facts at trial that are not contested by either side. Importantly Sohier Chaput has admitted writing, in part, the anti-Semitic article on the Daily Stormer website, and that the pseudonym Zeiger is him. Another admission is that the prosecutors so-called “expert” witnesses will not be contested as cyber-crime experts by the defence.
In what ended up being a foreshadowing of the sloppy case presented against Zeiger, in his opening statement the prosecutor Lafrenière described the Daily Stormer website as “extremist” and “far-right” and not as “neo-Nazi” or “fascist,” which it most obviously is.
The prosecutor’s first of two witnesses was Sergeant-Detective Pelletier-Langlois from the cyber-crimes section of the SPVM. Pelletier-Langlois, who was approved as an expert witness, testified that the Montreal police received a screenshot of the anti-Semitic and racist article written by Zeiger from a complainant (which has previously been identified publicly as B’nai Brith). The article was written in January 2017, but the complaint was made in early May 2018, around the time that Zeiger’s real identity was revealed via research by anti-fascists and shared through the mainstream media.
Pelletier-Langlois’ supposed expertise was knowing how to use the wayback machine and archive.org to find old web links that were changed or missing (like all online researchers know how to do). In the case of Zeiger’s Daily Stormer article, the actual URL changed since the Daily Stormer had lost its original hosting. The article was admitted into evidence, and was then verbally translated into English. The article uses racial slurs against Jews and Chinese people, and makes other clear neo-Nazi references, but absolutely no context was provided by either the translator or the police witness to the judge. For example, the term “1488 boots” in the phrase “Gas the k***s, race war now, 1488 boots on the ground” was translated into French as “1488 soldiers,” as if the number 1488 was just a number.
During the break, this reporter pointed out to the translator that “1488 boots” should most likely be translated literally as “1488 bottes” in French since the number 1488 is a neo-Nazi buzzword, referring to the white supremacist “14 words” and “88” (H being the 8th letter of the alphabet) meaning “Heil Hitler.” The translation was corrected after the break, but no context was provided, ever, to what 1488 might signify. Similarly, a derogatory term for Chinese people simply repeated in English in the French translation, without any context that the term is derogatory; the same applied for the derogatory term for Jews beginning with k. It is quite stunning that the prosecution didn’t bother to arrange for a proper French translation of the key piece of evidence against neo-Nazi Zeiger, nor attempt to provide context to key fascist terms.
Pelletier-Langlois also provided a compilation of the titles of articles by Zeiger on the Daily Stormer website, numbering in the hundreds, which was similarly easy to find on the Daily Stormer website itself. The very short cross-examination of the witness by defence lawyer Vicky Powell established that the Daily Stormer website includes a disclaimer renouncing violence. She also established that the neo-Nazi imagery on the website cannot be directly attributed to Sohier Chaput.
The second, and final, prosecution witness was worse. Agent-enquêteur Jean-Pierre Larente of the SPVM was also accepted as an expert witness on cyber-crimes. He testified about being informed about an investigation into Zeiger (or “Charles Zeiger”) in early May 2018, and that he spent a few hours over two days compiling references to Zeiger on the Daily Stormer website. Larente did describe the Daily Stormer website as “alt-right”, “misogynist”, “neo-Nazi”, and “white supremacist.” But, when asked by the prosecutor about hatred against Jews, Larente bizarrely testified that the Daily Stormer website was not related to Jews. This is despite the current banner of the website reading “because Jews are to blame” and the obvious anti-Semitism all over the website. Another comment was the reference to the fascist podcast “This Hour Has 88 Minutes” on which Zeiger appeared; Larente said in passing that the podcast lasted 88 minutes, without mentioning the most obvious point about the name, which is that it celebrates Hitler.
Today is the first day of trial for Gabriel Sohier Chaput aka Zeiger, the Montreal neonazi who collaborated with some of the most important neonazi online projects a few years ago (Daily Stormer, Iron March, etc.)https://t.co/YcM4u2B2Br
— Montréal Antifasciste (@MontrealAntifa) February 28, 2022
Under another very short cross-examination by defence lawyer Vicky Powell, Larente tried to take back his previous comment that the Daily Stormer website was not related to Jews – a key aspect of the prosecution case, and a key fact – but came across as flustered. This was reinforced when the judge asked the witness a simple question: how is it that Larente’s online research found about 50 references to Zeiger on the Daily Stormer website (such as a link to the This Hour Has 88 Minutes podcast) but his colleague in the same unit, Pelletier-Langlois, had found hundreds of articles actually written by Zeiger. Larente had no proper response, and at one point completely speculated, without any basis in fact, that perhaps people started tagging the name “Zeiger” more after his name was revealed in the media, and that his “research” took place in May 2018, while his colleague’s online “research” took place a few months later. The defence lawyer, Vicky Powell, highlighted this weird response in her re-cross-examination of the witness, as well as reinforcing that there is no evidence indicating that the images accompanying the article were chosen by the defendant.
What the so-called expert on cyber-issues of the Montreal police wasn’t able to explain to the judge, despite several minutes of painful half-explanations, was that while he searched for the tag “Zeiger” on the Daily Stormer website (which at the time provided about 50 entries) his colleague searched for the articles written by Zeiger (but clearly not necessarily tagged “Zeiger”, since they were written by Zeiger). Keep in mind, this expert witness, Larente, actually developed and gives a 2-day cybercrime training to other Montreal police officers. The “expertise” claimed by the two police witnesses is the same expertise possessed by anyone who does basic internet research.
After the second witness, the prosecution closed their case! At no point in their case was a proper explanation offered about the Daily Stormer website, including the name itself, the clear anti-Semitic references, the meaning of terms like “1488” or the derogatory nature of words like “k**e”.
Tomorrow, the defence will present their case and there will likely be closing arguments on the same day. To reiterate, this case will come down to whether one article, among hundreds written by Zeiger on the Daily Stormer website, constitutes incitement against Jews. But, Sohier Chaput’s potential finding of guilt or not does not change the fact that he is a neo-Nazi propagandist who has encouraged hatred against many identifiable groups of people, and that the patient, steadfast work of anti-fascists and journalists was able to expose him and neutralize him, more so than any cops or courts.