Sunday, February 25, 2007

German up a pole

A German father of five sentenced to jail for online fraud is protesting against his conviction by occupying the top of a 22-metre pole.

Fred Gregor, a 45-year-old lathe operator, has been squatting in a tiny cubicle atop the converted television mast since last Saturday morning in a bid to overturn the 15-month prison sentence he is due to start serving on March 1.

"I've been unfairly judged", he told Reuters from his perch in the village of Werben by telephone. "I want a new hearing."

In May 2006, a court in the eastern city of Dessau convicted Gregor after a man accused him of selling goods online that never arrived. The man told the court he tried to buy a laptop from Gregor but instead got a box filled with sand.

The court also found that Gregor's online business ventures were in breach of Germany's telecommunications law. Gregor, who has a number of previous convictions, one of which involved setting up a website on which his wife stripped, said the judge at his trial was biased.

"He only based his decision on my past record," he said, adding the judge had overseen all of his previous cases.

Since last weekend, Gregor said he had not left the rudimentary 3.25 square metre wooden box atop the pole, surviving on US military surplus provisions and using a system of bags and pulleys as a toilet.

His wife, 25-year-old Susanne Gregor, says she is very proud of him."I'm backing him all the way," she said."The children will know that their father stood up for what's right."

The unusual protest has attracted considerable attention from German media and Gregor said he would not go quietly when authorities come to enforce his jail term.

"They'll have to come up here and get me," he said.

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