German Activist Ernst Zundel Gets 5 Years for Denying Holocaust
MANNHEIM, Germany – A German court on Thursday convicted far-right activist Ernst Zundel and sentenced him to five years in prison for Holocaust denial in a case that underlined Germany's determination to prosecute people who claim the Nazis didn't murder six million Jews.
The 67-year-old Zundel, who was deported from Canada in 2005, was convicted on 14 counts of inciting hatred for years of anti-Semitic activities, including contributing to a Web site devoted to denying the Holocaust -- a crime in Germany.
Zundel showed no emotion when Judge Ulrich Meinerzhagen read the verdict, only nodding occasionally.
Zundel, who has also lived in Tennessee, and his supporters argued that he was a peaceful campaigner being denied his right to free speech.
His attorney, Ludwig Bock, said he would appeal.
"What is notable is the iron-hard refusal of the court to allow consideration of new scientific findings or expert opinions," Bock said.
Prosecutors in Germany were able to bring charges because the Web site is accessible there.
The German prosecution won praise from Bnai Brith Canada, a Jewish human rights group.
"The case of Ernst Zundel demonstrates clearly the strength, determination and resolve of Germany's hate crimes legislation, in stark contrast to our own," executive vice president Frank Dimant said in a statement. Dimant said Canadian hate crimes laws did not specifically recognize Holocaust denial as a crime.
Zundel faced 14 counts of incitement for disseminating anti-Semitic propaganda through a series of pamphlets and the Web site. Denying the Holocaust can bring three months to five years in prison.
His trial began in November in this southwestern city after an initial attempt to try him collapsed in March 2006 over a dispute with one of his attorneys, Sylvia Stolz.
At one stage, she was carried from the courtroom, screaming "Resistance! The German people are rising up," after she defied an order banning her from the trial on grounds she tried to sabotage the proceedings by denouncing the court as a "tool of foreign domination."
During the current trial, Bock quoted from Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf" and from Nazi race laws in his closing statements last week as argued for Zundel's acquittal.
Bock accused the Mannheim state court of not wanting to face a "scientific analysis" of the Holocaust and charged that prosecutors -- one of whom has termed Zundel a "rat catcher" -- had defamed his client.
Another of Zundel's five attorneys, Herbert Schaller, told the court that all of its evidence that the Holocaust took place was based only on witness reports, instead of hard facts.
In his own closing arguments, prosecutor Andreas Grossmann called Zundel a "political con man" from whom the German people must be protected, widely quoting from his writings, which argue that millions of Jews did not die at the hands of the Nazis.
"You might as well argue that the sun rises in the west," Grossmann said when asking that Zundel be given the maximum sentence. "But you cannot change that the Holocaust has been proven."
Born in Germany in 1939, Zundel emigrated to Canada in 1958 and lived in Toronto and Montreal until 2001. Canadian officials twice rejected his attempts to obtain Canadian citizenship, and he moved to Pigeon Forge, Tenn., until he was deported to Canada in 2003 for alleged immigration violations.
Mannheim prosecutors were able to open a case against Zundel because his Holocaust-denying Web site is available in Germany.
In February 2005, a Canadian judge ruled that Zundel's activities were not only a threat to national security, but "the international community of nations" as well.
A Canadian law, passed after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States, allows the government to hold terrorism suspects without charge, based on secret evidence that does not have to be disclosed to a suspect or his defense.
Zundel was deported a few days later.
Since the late 1970s, he had operated Samisdat Publishing, one of the leading distributors of Nazi propaganda and, since 1995, had been a key content provider for a Web site dedicated to Holocaust denial.
Zundel has claimed he is a peaceful man with no criminal record against him in Canada.
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