Thursday, August 23, 2007

Austria Practices Thought-Crime Against Holocaust Deniers

Associated Press

Spanish police on Thursday arrested a right-wing writer and publisher wanted in his home country of Austria for repeatedly denying the existence of the Jewish Holocaust and the use of gas chambers, officials said.

Gerd Honsik was arrested in the southern city of Malaga, a police spokeswoman said. No more details on his arrest were immediately available.

Honsik had fled to Spain after being convicted in 1992 in Austria of neo-Nazi activities and sentenced to one year in prison for writings that defended Adolf Hitler's Third Reich.

Between 1986 and 1989 Honsik published writings in a book disputing among other things that the Nazis systematically killed Jews at Auschwitz and other extermination camps during World War II.

The Austrian judge who convicted him ruled that Honsik's writings were a misleading, propaganda-like presentation of Nazi activities and that they lacked objectivity.

The Vienna public prosecutor's office said Thursday it had issued a European warrant seeking Honsik's arrest, based on suspicions that he had committed other offenses since Austria enacted a landmark 1992 law making it a crime to deny the Holocaust or promote Nazi propaganda.

It was unclear whether or when authorities might lodge a formal request to have Honsik extradited to Austria.

Spain had already twice turned down an Austrian extradition request for Honsik. Spain's high court said that Holocaust denial and neo-Nazi propaganda were not illegal in the country.

But after the European arrest warrant was issued, Honsik could be extradited for racist and xenophobic behaviour, the Austrian ministry said.

Spain has 90 days from the point when the arrest warrant was issued to decide whether to extradite Honsik.

In December, Austria deported British historian David Irving, who was arrested in 2005 and sentenced to three years in prison for denying the Holocaust. But he was granted an appeal to serve the remainder of his sentence on probation.

Denying the Holocaust in Austria, which provided a significant number of top Nazi leaders including Hitler, is a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

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