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Germany appeals court upholds conviction of UK bishop for Holocaust denial

The Regensberg Court of Appeals in southern Germany on Monday upheld the conviction of British Bishop Richard Williamson for incitement for denying the Holocaust [JURIST news archive]. The court reduced his punishment [AP report], however, to a fine of 6,500 euro from the initial 10,000 euro fine as a result of Williamson's financial circumstances. The conviction [JURIST report] stemmed from an interview to Swedish TV channel SVT1, broadcast in January 2009, in which Williamson said he doubted [Die Zeit report, in German] that six million Jews were killed in gas chambers. The interview was rebroadcast over the Internet in Germany, where Holocaust denial is a crime. When Williamson gave the interview to the Swedish TV channel he asked the crew not to broadcast the interview in Germany. In 2009, the same court issued a 12,000 euro fine against Williamson in connection with this case, but Williamson contested the decision, forcing the public trial [DW report]. The lifting of Williamson's excommunication [NYT report] following the conviction by Pope Benedict XVI [Vatican profile] caused international outrage.

Several countries have passed similar laws that punish Holocaust denial. In February 2010, the Hungarian Parliament [official website, in Hungarian] passed a bill [JURIST report] that prohibits denials of the Holocaust. In November of the same year, the German Federal Constitutional Court [official website, in German] upheld [JURIST report] legislation prohibiting public support and justification of the Nazi regime. After six years of contentious debate, the European Union approved [JURIST report] a framework aimed at criminalizing denial of the Holocaust and other genocides in 2007. Also in 2007, a German court sentenced [JURIST report] anti-Semitic writer Ernst Zundel [ADL profile; JURIST news archive] to five years in prison after finding him guilty on 14 counts of incitement, libel and disparaging the dead.

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