Since the end of November 2017, a preliminary investigation has been under way against the German performance group “Center for Political Beauty” (ZPS) according to §129 StGB at the request of the public prosecutor’s office in Gera (Thuringia) with serious suspicion of “forming a criminal organization”. The investigation was initiated one week after the start of the ZPS action “Deine Stele” (Your Stela), the construction of a copy of the Berlin Holocaust memorial opposite the house of right wing MP Björn Höcke (AFD).
Investigations according to §129 has never been used against artists before. They allow comprehensive surveillance and applied to particularly serious crimes such as terrorism and gang crime and which are punishable by terms of imprisonment of two to five years. The proceedings were also not discontinued after the Cologne Regional Court, in its decision of February 2018, clearly and unambiguously regarded the action of the ZPS as a “work of art” and assessed it to be fully covered by the fundamental rights of artistic freedom and freedom of expression.
The case became public by a parliamentary interpellation from the Left party, followed by investigative reports from the media. After 16 months, the case was dropped yesterday.
The Gorki Theater, Berlin which presented several ZPS projects , wrote an open letter of protest, signed by a large number of people and cultural institutions, including ITI, which protests against the criminalization of critical art: “We formally oppose and defend ourselves against a tendency towards the political-ideological criminalisation of art, which endangers the community and the free democratic basic order, and against the the instrumentalisation of criminal law on the basis of convictions.”