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For first time in South Africa’s history, criminal verdict made in antisemitism case

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Last week, the Randburg Magistrates Court, near Johannesburg, found Matome Letsoalo guilty of crimen injuria for threatening the Jewish community 

By ILANIT CHERNICK

For the first time in South Africa’s history, a criminal verdict has been made in an antisemitism case.

Last week, the Randburg Magistrates Court, near Johannesburg, found Matome Letsoalo guilty of crimen injuria for threatening the Jewish community and publishing abusive tweets that targeted the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD).

In June 2018, the SAJBD received a tweet from Letsoalo reading, “@SAJBD The #Holocaust Will be like a Picnic When we are done with all you Zionist Bastards. Fuck All of You.” 

The post also included an image of Holocaust victims and the Nazi flag. 

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That same day, Letsoalo then sent a second message to the SAJBD, reading, “@SAJBD Must get Decimated. We Can’t have Scandanavian Rats, Fake Jews, Zionist Bastards Running our Economy.”

Following these antisemitic messages, there were several exchanges on Twitter between Letsoalo and members of South Africa’s Jewish community members who challenged him on his antisemitic comments.

Letsoalo then posted further threatening and abusive messages to those Jewish community members. 

In response to the blatantly antisemitic comments and tweets by Letsoalo, the SAJBD laid a charge of crimen injuria against him.

He has since been charged and was found guilty of crimen injuria.

Reacting to this momentous verdict in the fight against online antisemitism, SAJBD National Director Wendy Kahn said that the court’s ruling was a vindication of over two years of effort by the SAJBD and its legal advisors to call Letsoalo to account for his actions.  

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“This outcome sends a strong message that threatening and hate-filled attacks on our community will not be tolerated and that the SAJBD will do everything necessary to bring those responsible to justice, no matter how long it takes,” she said.

Ian Levitt, whose firm Ian Levitt Attorneys represented the SAJBD in the case, explained that “this matter has been going on for over 2 years,” and “despite several delays mostly brought on by COVID-19, we were not swayed in our determination to have Letsaolo convicted.”  

Concluding, Levitt stressed that they “will continue to assist in the prosecution of those that attack our community, seemingly with impunity, and we hope that this conviction will be a lesson to those who do so.”

Letsoalo is set to appear in court later this week for mitigation and sentencing.

*Featured Image by Vitezslav Vylicil

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