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Court fines Holocaust-denying British bishop €10,000

Video by Kathryn STAPLEY

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2010-04-16

UK Bishop Richard Williamson was tried in absentia and fined 10,000 euros by a German court Friday. His remarks diminishing the significance of the Holocaust are illegal in Germany and Austria.

AFP Renegade British Catholic bishop Richard Williamson was fined 10,000 euros (13,500 dollars) by a German court Friday for Holocaust denial in a case that has deeply embarrassed the Vatican.

The court in this southern German city convicted Williamson of inciting racial hatred for stating in a television interview aired in January 2009 that only "200,000 to 300,000 Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps".

The bishop also denied there had ever been any gas chambers.

His trial was held his absence as an ultra-conservative Catholic group ordered the cleric not to testify.

"Bishop Williamson would gladly have come, but the Saint Pius X Society suggested he did not -- to be precise, they forbade him from coming," defence attorney Matthias Lossmann told the court in this southern German city.

A further trial was ordered after he refused to pay. Denying that the Holocaust took place, or questioning key elements, is illegal in Germany and Austria.

The court heard a replay of an excerpt of the interview, in which Williamson is heard telling the interviewer: "Be careful, this is against the law in Germany."

The bishop was told the interview would be aired only in Sweden, Lossmann told the court.

Williamson's comments prompted a rare comment on religious matters by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who called on Pope Benedict XVI to "clarify unambiguously that there can be no denial" the Nazis killed six million Jews.

The pope has drawn strong criticism for reversing the excommunication of Williamson and three other bishops in the Saint Pius X Society.

Date created : 2010-04-16

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