An internet prankster who released a viral video in which he teaches his girlfriend's dog to Sieg Heil and react to the phrase "gas the Jews" is at the centre of a global free speech storm – after being convicted of a hate crime.

Mark Meechan’s YouTube video of the pug Buddha has been viewed more than three million times has been described by in court as "reckless" and "extremely offensive to the Jewish community".

But the 30-year-old from Coatbridge insisted he wanted to turn her dog “into the least cute thing imaginable” to wind up his girlfriend Suzanne Kelly.

In a landmark ruling yesterday, Sheriff Derek O'Carroll found Mark Meechan guilty of a charge under the Communications Act of posting a video which was “anti-Semitic and racist in nature” and was "grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character".

The Herald:

But the court battle has attracted global attention ­­– in particular from right-wing media pundits including Alex Jones, Paul Joseph Watson, and even Canadian commentator Lauren Southern, who is said to have been banned from Sky News following an anti-immigration rant but travelled to North Lanarkshire to report on the perceived ridiculousness of Meechan’s situation.

Supporting Meechan at court yesterday was former English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson.

READ MORE: Free speech row as Scots 'Nazi dog' film maker found guilty of being grossly offensive online

And in the wake of the guilty verdict, comedy star Ricky Gervais was among those to support the Coatbridge blogger.

He said: "A man has been convicted in a UK court of making a joke that was deemed 'grossly offensive'.

The Herald:

"If you don't believe in a person's right to say things that you might find 'grossly offensive', then you don't believe in Freedom of Speech.

"I hate religion. I've criticised and ridiculed it for 40 years. Yet if my government tried to ban it or criminalise it, I would march alongside those poor fools and fight hard for their right to believe any f*****g stupid nonsense they chose."

READ MORE: Scots 'Nazi dog' row: "What is funny about talking about killing an entire race"

Also among Meechan's supporters is comedian David Baddiel,  who is Jewish, and told Ricky Gervais's Sirius radio show last month: "It is funny. 

"As far as I am concerned you can definitely do jokes about the Holocaust. Obviously, you can do jokes about anything."

Gervais adds: "Of course what is funny about it is the lack of awareness on the dog's part."

After the verdict Baddiel was challenged over whether he was "that stupid to believe this guys defense is to make his girlfriend's dog less cute".

He said: "I am that stupid, Karen. Because an actual Nazi would not be teaching his *pug* to Hitler salute. Because in 1940s Germany, that would have got you arrested and murdered for taking the p**s.

When one told him the Holocaust was not a laughing matter he replied on Twitter: "Then you disagree with many of the victims.

"Humour was a resource for inmates of all concentration camps, and for survivors. Read, for example, Jeremy Dauber's brilliant book on Jewish Comedy."

He also raised concerns that the defence of Meechan was now being appropriated "by (some) proper w***ers".

READ MORE: Free speech row as Scots 'Nazi dog' film maker found guilty of being grossly offensive online

After the hearing Meechan, who has always denied any wrongdoing, said there had been a huge miscarriage of justice.

"I think it's a very, very dark day in regards to freedom of speech and freedom of expression,” he said.

The Herald:

"The thing that was most worrying is that one of the primary things in any action that is to be considered is things like context and intent, and today context and intent were completely disregarded.

"For the system to actually disregard such things as that means that your actions no longer matter, they decide what your context and intent is.

"For any comedians in Britain, I would be very worried about making jokes in future because your context and intent behind them apparently don't matter anymore."

Sheriff O'Carroll said: "In my view, there is no doubt it's [the video] grossly offensive.

He said Meechan knew the video was offensive as he said himself during his evidence that he "likes offensive comedy."

The sheriff added: "He said he chose 'gas the Jews' as it was the most offensive phrase associated with the Nazis that he could think of.

"It was the centrepiece of the joke. He said it was so extreme that it added to the comedy."

The Herald:

He did not believe Meechan's defence that the video was made as a private joke to annoy his girlfriend, as he had "not taken any steps to prevent the video being shared publicly".

The stunt provoked outrage but also sparked a freedom of speech row as YouTube initially refused to remove the 'Nazi Dog' video.

A YouTube source said at the time that while it was recognised that many would find the video offensive, many videos on the site were, and it was a site that believed in freedom of expression.

The source said the intent of the video regardless of how ludicrous and unpleasant it is perceived was "clearly comedic".

"If we felt it was toxic hate speech, we would have taken it down."

Eventually it was - but can still be viewed on another YouTube channel.

READ MORE: Free speech row as Scots 'Nazi dog' film maker found guilty of being grossly offensive online

But Ephraim Borowski, director of the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (SCoJeC), said videos like the 'Nazi dog' footage served to "normalise antisemitic views".

The Herald:

He said the video was extremely offensive and had told the court the Holocaust "is not a subject for jocular content".

In a commentary by Nat Hentoff, a member of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and Nick Hentoff, the criminal defence and civil liberties attorney in New York pointed to the case as an example of hate speech prosecutions that are "patently absurd".

At the start of the video Meechan posted, he says: "My girlfriend is always ranting and raving about how cute and adorable her wee dog is so I thought I would turn him into the least cute thing I could think of which is a Nazi."

The Herald:

But the procurator fiscal argued that they do not believe the video was intended to be a joke and that Meechan had "a particular audience in mind" when he uploaded it to YouTube.

Meechan claimed he only intended it to be seen by seven of his friends, who follow his YouTube channel.

Sentencing has been deferred till April 23.