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Holocaust Denier Gets Three Years in Jail

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060220/ap_on_re_eu/austria_holocaust_denial;_ylt=AoH9NF.D79k921jrrojxSt6s0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTA3b2NibDltBHNlYwM3MTY- Holocaust Denier
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 20, 2006

      Holocaust Denier Gets Three Years in Jail

      By VERONIKA OLEKSYN, Associated Press Writer 4 minutes

      VIENNA, Austria - Right-wing British historian David
      Irving was sentenced to three years in prison Monday
      after admitting to an Austrian court that he denied
      the Holocaust — a crime in the country where Hitler
      was born.

      Irving, who pleaded guilty and then insisted during
      his one-day trial that he now acknowledged the Nazis'
      World War II slaughter of 6 million Jews, had faced up
      to 10 years behind bars. Before the verdict, Irving
      conceded he had erred in contending there were no gas
      chambers at the Auschwitz concentration camp.

      "I made a mistake when I said there were no gas
      chambers at Auschwitz," Irving testified, at one point
      expressing sorrow "for all the innocent people who
      died during the Second World War."

      Irving, stressing he only relied on primary sources,
      said he came across new information in the early
      1990's from top Nazi officials — including personal
      documents belonging to Adolf Eichmann — that led him
      to rethink certain previous assertions.

      But despite his apparent epiphany, Irving, 67,
      maintained he had never questioned the Holocaust.

      "I've never been a Holocaust denier and I get very
      angry when I'm called a Holocaust denier," he said.

      Irving's lawyer said he would appeal the sentence.

      "I consider the verdict a little too stringent. I
      would say it's a bit of a message trial," attorney
      Elmar Kresbach said.

      State prosecutor Michael Klackl declined to comment on
      the verdict. In his closing arguments, however, he
      criticized Irving for "putting on a show" and for not
      admitting that the Nazis killed Jews in an organized
      and systematic manner.

      Irving appeared shocked as the sentence was read out.
      Moments later, an elderly man identifying himself as a
      family friend called out "Stay strong, David! Stay
      strong!" before he was escorted from the courtroom.

      Irving has been in custody since his November arrest
      on charges stemming from two speeches he gave in
      Austria in 1989 in which he was accused of denying the
      Nazis' extermination of 6 million Jews.

      Irving, handcuffed and wearing a navy blue suit,
      arrived at the court carrying one of his most
      controversial books — "Hitler's War," which challenges
      the extent of the Holocaust.

      Throughout the day, Irving sat quietly and attentively
      in the stifling courtroom.

      Irving's trial was held amid new — and fierce — debate
      over freedom of expression in Europe, where the
      printing and reprinting of unflattering cartoons of
      the Prophet Muhammad has triggered violent protests

      "Of course it's a question of freedom of speech,"
      Irving said. "The law is an ass."

      The court convicted Irving after his guilty plea under
      the 1992 law, which applies to "whoever denies,
      grossly plays down, approves or tries to excuse the
      National Socialist genocide or other National
      Socialist crimes against humanity in a print
      publication, in broadcast or other media."

      Austria was Hitler's birthplace and once was run by
      the Nazis.

      "He is everything but a historian ... He is a
      dangerous falsifier of history," Klackl said, calling
      Irving's statements an "abuse of freedom of speech."

      Klackl said the Austrian law does not "hinder
      historical works."

      "You have to look at each case individually," he said.
      "The point is, what is someone trying to do? It's the

      Kresbach, however, said people "should have a right to
      be wrong."

      The verdict was welcomed by the Simon Wiesenthal
      Center, which also highlighted the issue of freedom of

      "While Irving's rants would not have led to legal
      action in the United States, it is important that we
      recognize and respect Austria's commitment to fighting
      Holocaust denial, the most odious form of hatred, as
      part of its historic responsibility to its Nazi past,"
      the center's associate dean, Rabbi Abraham Cooper,
      said in a statement.

      Kresbach said last month the controversial Third Reich
      historian was getting up to 300 pieces of fan mail a
      week from supporters around the world and was writing
      his memoirs in detention under the working title
      "Irving's War."

      Irving was arrested Nov. 11 in the southern Austrian
      province of Styria on a warrant issued in 1989. He
      tried to win his provisional release on $24,000 bail,
      but a Vienna court rejected the motion, saying it
      considered him a flight risk.

      Within two weeks of his arrest, he asserted through
      his lawyer that he had come to acknowledge the
      existence of Nazi-era gas chambers.

      However, he has claimed previously that Adolf Hitler
      knew little if anything about the Holocaust, and he
      has been quoted as saying there was "not one shred of
      evidence" the Nazis carried out their "Final Solution"
      to exterminate the Jewish population on such a massive

      Irving, the author of nearly 30 books, has contended
      most of those who died at concentration camps such as
      Auschwitz succumbed to diseases such as typhus rather
      than execution.

      In 2000, Irving sued American Holocaust scholar
      Deborah Lipstadt for libel in a British court, but
      lost. The presiding judge in that case, Charles Gray,
      wrote that Irving was "an active Holocaust denier ...
      anti-Semitic and racist."

      Irving has had numerous run-ins with the law over the

      In 1992, a judge in Germany fined him the equivalent
      of $6,000 for publicly insisting the Nazi gas chambers
      at Auschwitz were a hoax.
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