Holocaust denier's trial resumes in Germany
Ernst Zundel, a German white supremacist extradited from Canada on accusations he repeatedly denied the Holocaust, returned to court Thursday to face charges of incitement, libel and disparaging the dead.
Zundel's trial at the Mannheim state court was halted in November when the judge dismissed two members of the defence team, saying he doubted they would mount a "regular" defence after one described Jews as an "enemy people." Zundel has since expanded his team to include six lawyers — the maximum permitted.
The turmoil resumed almost immediately on Thursday as Presiding Judge Ulrich Meinerzhagen told the dozens of Zundel supporters who packed the viewing gallery that they would be thrown out if they caused any disturbances.
Zundel lawyers then filed a motion accusing Meinerzhagen of bias.
"If you don't think your nerves are up to it, you should take yourself off the case," defence lawyer Juergen Rieger told the judge.
The defence team also requested that two of the three court-appointed lawyers be moved out of earshot of Zundel and the other defence lawyers as the case proceeded.
German authorities accuse Zundel of decades of anti-Semitic activities, including repeated denials of the Holocaust — a crime in his native Germany and some other European countries — in documents and on the Internet.
Zundel, 66, who once lived in Tennessee and was deported from Canada last year, faces a maximum five years in jail if convicted.
The International Auschwitz Committee has said survivors of the death camp see the trial as an important part of the campaign against Holocaust deniers.
Two prominent deniers were recently detained in Europe — British historian David Irving, who is in Austrian custody, and Germar Rudolf, who was deported back to his native Germany from the United States.
Zundel and his supporters argue that he is a peaceful campaigner denied his right to free speech and view his trial as a chance to attack alleged Western double standards and promote their views.
They have sought to bolster their arguments by referring to the Iranian president's recent description of the Holocaust as a ``myth" and have welcomed his call for a conference examining whether it occurred.
They have also seized on how European newspaper editors have invoked the right to free speech to defend the publication of provocative caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.
An Iranian newspaper on Tuesday announced a competition for cartoons on the Holocaust to test Western commitment to freedom of expression.
"We now have a media festival of the kind we seldom enjoy," Zundel's wife, Ingrid Rimland, wrote in a January entry on Zundel's website, where articles supporting the Iranian president have been posted.
A prominent white supremacist and Holocaust doubter since the late 1970s, Zundel ran Samisdat Publishers, a Canadian publisher and distributor of far-right materials. A book called Did Six Million Really Die? is offered for sale on the Zundelsite website.
In his indictment for the Mannheim case, prosecutors cite Zundel texts dating from 1999 to 2003 which they say show his attempts "in a pseudoscientific way, to relieve National Socialism of the stain of the murder of the Jews."
Zundel "denied the fate of destruction for the Jews planned by National Socialist powerholders and justified this by saying that the mass destruction in Auschwitz and Treblinka, among others, were an invention of the Jews and served the repression and blackmail of the German people," the indictment says.
Born in Germany in 1939 — the year Germany invaded Poland to start the Second World War — Zundel emigrated to Canada in 1958 and lived in Toronto and Montreal until 2001. Canadian officials rejected his attempts to obtain citizenship in 1966 and 1994.
He then moved to the U.S. state of Tennessee, where he married Rimland. He was deported to Canada in 2003 for alleged immigration violations and then to Germany in 2005 as a danger to national and international security.
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