German doctor jailed for illegally issuing mask exemptions

BERLIN (AP): A German doctor has been sentenced to two years and nine months in prison for illegally issuing more than 4,000 people with exemptions from wearing masks during the coronavirus pandemic.

Public broadcaster SWR reported that a regional court in the southwestern town of Weinheim convicted the doctor late Monday for issuing certificates to people from across Germany, most of whom she had never met or examined. During the trial she had argued that wearing masks was harmful to people’s health.

In addition to the prison sentence she was handed a three-year work ban and ordered to pay 28,000 euros ($29,550), the sum she had received for issuing the medical certificates. Her office assistant was fined 2,700 euros.

The doctor’s lawyer intends to appeal the verdict, SWR reported.

Dozens of supporters gathered outside the court in Weinheim, north of Heidelberg, to protest against the verdict and Germany’s pandemic restrictions.

Germany ended requirements to wear masks in many indoor settings last year, though they are still compulsory on long-distance trains, in doctors’ practices, hospitals, nursing homes and on some regional public transport.