German court upholds British bishop Holocaust verdict

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A German appeals court on Monday upheld renegade British bishop Richard Williamson's conviction for Holocaust denial, but reduced the fine ordered by a lower court.

Williamson, 71, who was not in court, had appealed his conviction by a court in Regensburg for denying key facts about the Holocaust in an interview he gave to Swedish television in the southern German city in 2008.

The bishop alleged he was duped by a Swedish reporter into believing the interview would only be broadcast in Sweden.

Lawyers for London-based Williamson did not deny the statements made by the bishop, a member of the breakaway ultra-conservative Catholic fraternity the Saint Pius X Society, but stressed that in Sweden such opinions could be freely voiced.

In Germany it is an offence to deny that the Nazis murdered six million Jews during World War II.

Williamson told Swedish television that "200,000 to 300,000 Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps" and disputed the existence of the gas chambers.

In April 2010, Williamson, who now lives in London, was fined 10,000 euros ($14,500) by the court, reduced from an earlier fine of 12,000 euros he had refused to pay, for inciting racial hatred.

The court on Monday reduced the fine to 6,500 euros.

Judge Birgit Eisvogel said Williamson must have known his comments would be made public in Germany.

"We know the accused is a blogger" who used to regularly make his views known over the Internet, she told the court.

In addition, Swedish television can easily be received by satellite in Germany, she said.

And the question asked by the journalist about the Holocaust was not a "trick question", she added.

Williamson, however, did not raise the matter himself which proved something of a mitigating circumstance, she added.

© 2011 AFP

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