David Irving: Three years is not enough say Irving's accusers

Historians in the News

Austrian state prosecutors are to lodge an appeal to try to lengthen the three-year jail term handed down to David Irving, the British historian imprisoned in Austria for lying about the Holocaust. They said he remained a beacon for the European neo-Nazi movement and had been treated too lightly after the judge at Monday's trial declared Irving's show of remorse to be a case of crocodile tears.

Irving's long and controversial career appeared to be over yesterday, with his retirement years being spent in the large Josefstadt prison behind the city hall in Vienna. At the close of the trial on Monday evening, the state prosecutor, Michael Klackl, told The Guardian that he needed to digest the judgment before forming an opinion on the sentencing for an offence that carries a maximum jail term of 10 years and a minimum of five-years when the crime was committed in 1989.

At the trial, Mr Klackl did not stipulate what kind of sentence the prosecution was seeking. But yesterday the prosecution moved on to the offensive. "The public prosecutor believes the ruling was too lenient in light of a possible sentence of up to 10 years and Irving's special importance to rightwing radicals," said Walter Geyer, spokesman for the Vienna public prosecutor's office.

Irving was arrested last November for speeches he made in Austria in 1989 in which he said there were no gas chambers at Auschwitz, no extermination camps in the Third Reich, and called Adolf Hitler a protector of Europe's Jews.

At the trial on Monday he repeatedly voiced "regret" for several of his remarks, his defence strategy based on hope for a suspended sentence after pleading guilty and expressing remorse. The strategy failed, although many were surprised at the length of the jail sentence. Irving was clearly rattled and dismayed. He is appealing against the sentence.

Irving claimed in his defence that he had changed his views about his repeated claims that there were no gas chambers at Auschwitz back in 1991.

But at the British libel trial he bought in 2000 against a book calling him a Holocaust denier, the writer denied that the Nazi's had killed millions of Jews in gas chambers. Mr Irving in 2000 told the high court in London: "I deny that millions died in the gas chambers because of the logistical problems for a start."

"There are so many Auschwitz survivors going around, in fact the number increases as the years go past, which is biologically very odd to say the least. I'm going to form an association of Auschwitz Survivors, Survivors of the Holocaust and other liars, or the ASSHOLS."

Debate about the sentence continued yesterday. The director of Liberty, Shami Chakrabarti said: "All democracies place necessary and proportionate limits on free speech. This was the argument for Holocaust denial in certain countries in the immediate aftermath of World War II. But incarcerating a crackpot for three years in 2006 is dangerously counterproductive."

Irving's defence lawyer, Elmar Kresbach, suggested the case was a political trial, clearly intended "to send a message". Indeed Mr Kresbach and the presiding judge, Peter Liebtreu, emphasised the international attention the case was attracting and seemed to feel that much was at stake for Austria in the way the trial was conducted.

Austria has the stiffest Holocaust denial law in Europe but enjoys a poor reputation for dealing with Nazi war criminal suspects.

Read entire article at The Guardian Unlimited

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