BERLIN – An ultraconservative British bishop was fined $16,822 in Germany for denying the Holocaust in an interview with Swedish television, his lawyer said Tuesday.
A court in the Bavarian city of Regensburg issued the fine against Richard Williamson for incitement in connection with his Holocaust denial, Williamson's lawyer Matthias Lossmann said.
"We received the order of punishment on Monday and my client has time until Nov. 9 to react to it," Lossmann said. He gave no indication how Williamson would react.
An order of punishment is a German legal tool that involves no trial but is equivalent to a conviction if accepted by the defendant. If the defendant objects, it goes to trial.
The investigation of whether Williamson broke German laws against Holocaust denial was launched after the interview was aired earlier this year. In it, Williamson said he didn't believe any Jews were killed in gas chambers during World War II.
The interview was conducted near Regensburg and was granted shortly before Williamson's excommunication was lifted by Pope Benedict XVI, along with that of three other bishops from the anti-modernization movement of the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.
The lifting of Williamson's excommunication sparked outrage among Jewish groups and in Israel. The Vatican's handling of the affair prompted criticism from German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Earlier this month, Williamson was quoted by the weekly Der Spiegel as saying he tried to have an injunction issued to block the interview's release in Germany.
"I tried to ... prevent my interview with Swedish television from being broadcast in Germany via the Internet," Williamson was quoted as saying. He could use that argument should the case go to trial.
On Monday, Pope Benedict XVI met for talks with a delegation from Williamson's traditionalist group, the Society of St. Pius X which split from Rome over the modernizing reforms of the Second Vatican Council, particularly its outreach to Jews and Christians who were not Catholics.
Pope Benedict XVI's effort to reconcile with the group is part of his overall aim of unifying the church and putting a highly conservative stamp on it.