German court fines British bishop for Holocaust claims
Richard Williamson fined €12,000 over claim on Swedish TV that fewer than 300,000 Jews died in Nazi death camps
Monday 26 October 2009
A British bishop has been fined €12,000 after a German court found him guilty of denying the Holocaust.
Richard Williamson received a letter today from the court in the Bavarian city of Regensburg informing him that he was being fined for incitement over his claim on Swedish television that fewer than 300,000 Jews died in Nazi death camps.
In the interview, Williamson alleged that Nazi gas chambers had never existed and "only 200,000 to 300,000 Jews" had been killed by the Nazis.
Holocaust denial is classed as a hate crime in Germany and because the interview took place in Regensburg, German prosecutors were allowed to investigate.
The bishop's remarks were made public in January, shortly after Pope Benedict XVI repealed an order made by the previous pope excommunicating Williamson for his rightwing views. Williamson was consecrated a bishop by the pope's Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX), an ultraconservative splinter group.
The outcry was immediate, with both Jews and members of the Catholic hierarchy criticising the pope's rehabilitation of a Holocaust-denier. While condemning Williamson's remarks, the Vatican defended its decision, only saying later that it hadn't known about his very public views about the Holocaust.
Williamson has said through his lawyer that he was assured his offending remarks would not be broadcast in Germany but only in Sweden, where there is no law against Holocaust denial. A Munich newspaper, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, said prosecutors had received a letter from the Swedish television producers in which they denied offering any assurance to Williamson that the interview, conducted in English, would be broadcast in Sweden only.
Williamson's German lawyer, Matthias Lossmann, said his client had been told to pay €100 a day for 120 days, and he was likely to appeal. If he does, there will be a proper trial in Regensburg, which Williamson will not be forced to attend.
Lossmann told Germany's Focus magazine that the fine – imposed under an "order of punishment", a German legal tool that involves no trial but, if accepted by the defendant, is equivalent to a conviction – was too harsh and that the sentencing authorities had been influenced by the publicity surrounding the case. German law allows a maximum sentence of five years in prison for belittling or denying the Holocaust.