Suspected Montreal neo-Nazi recruiter pleads not guilty to spreading online hate
The hate propaganda case against a suspected neo-Nazi known online as Zeiger hinges on a single article published on a website called the Daily Stormer on January 23, 2017.
Gabriel Sohier-Chaput, 35, who freely admits to having used this pseudonym online, appeared before Judge Manlio Del Negro of the Court of Quebec on Monday, the first day of his trial for a charge of willfully promoting hate propaganda.
Dressed in a gray shirt under a navy sweater with a charcoal blazer and round glasses, Sohier-Chaput looked very little like the bearded man in a red MAGA cap who attended a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August. 2017.
Sohier-Chaput pleaded not guilty to a single count of willfully promoting hate propaganda against Jewish people. He admitted that as Zeiger, he contributed to the Daily Stormer between 2016 and 2017, and wrote part of the article at the center of this case, titled “Canada: Nazis Trigger Jews By Putting Up Posters On Ch- -k Church”.
The article pays tribute to neo-Nazi posters plastered on a bus stop in British Columbia and insults a Holocaust survivor, saying he only survived “for now”. He relied on a world news report on posters, adding anti-Semitic memes and editorial comments.
The Daily Stormer article began by saying that 2017 would be “the year of action”.
“We have to make sure that no SJW [social justice warrior] or Jew can stay safely without being tripped,” he said. “Non-stop Nazism, everywhere, until the very streets are flooded with the tears of our enemies.
Daily Stormer still active, says cyber investigator
The trial at the Montreal courthouse is expected to last three to five days, said Crown prosecutor Patrick Lafrenière. The first witnesses to testify are two police officers from the cyber investigation unit of the Service de police de Montréal (SPVM).
SPVM Const. Sébastien Pelletier-Langlois testified that he was contacted on July 10, 2018 and told to find articles that were once on the Daily Stormer, after the website was shut down.
Using the Wayback Machine, a World Wide Web archive, to find the articles, Pelletier-Langlois said he was able to find Zeiger’s author page. The Daily Stormer has moved domains and servers several times, he said, and is still active.
Pelletier-Langlois said he saw about 120 articles written by Zeiger on the first page of an eight-page list of all Zeiger articles.
Questioning Pelletier-Langlois, defense attorney Vicky Powell argued that it cannot be proven that Sohier-Chaput was the one who added the anti-Semitic images or that an editor did not edit the content before the publication. She also said that although the name Zeiger appears on the articles, it cannot be proven that Sohier-Chaput actually wrote them.
The Crown said the nature of the website the Daily Stormer will play in the trial.
“If I write on a Nazi, far-right, fascist website and say something that is directed at its particular readership, that’s one thing,” Lafrenière said. It’s not like writing for Le Devoir, he says.
Screenshots from the Daily Stormer presented as evidence by Montreal police show a banner with the publication’s name in green letters, a man holding a gun pointed at the camera with Hitler’s face floating back- plan and the slogan “The world’s #1 PewDiePie fansite” – a reference to a controversial Swedish YouTuber with 111 million followers.
The website’s sidebar featured Pepe the Frog, a popular meme among far-right circles, with swastikas in his eyes, among other offensive images. Sections at the top of the site next to “Featured Stories” included “Jewish Problem” and “Race War”.
const. Jean-Pierre Larente of the SPVM cyber investigation team said he began investigating Zeiger’s online presence on May 3, 2018. His task was to find anything about Zeiger on the web, which, according to him led him to the Daily Stormer, Iron March and episodes. on podcasts such as This Hour Has 88 Minutes, Radio Werewolf: Zeiger, and Race Ghost Roast to Roast: Eulogy for Iron March, among others.
Larente said he saw a lot of racist, misogynistic, white supremacist and neo-Nazi content on the Daily Stormer.
However, when questioned by the defence, he admitted that it was impossible to prove that articles bearing Zeiger’s name had been written and published by Sohier-Chaput, speculating that someone could have added the defendant’s name to his knowledge.
There were discrepancies between the two officers’ accounts of the number of articles Zeiger wrote, though Larente said it could be related to the many times the website changed domain names and servers.
Sohier-Chaput faces up to two years in prison if found guilty. The trial continues on Tuesday.