Holocaust denier back in Britain

British historian and Holocaust denier David Irving has returned to the UK after being expelled from Austria.

Mr Irving was unrepentant as he arrived back in at Heathrow airport saying he had “no need any longer to show remorse” for his views.

Earlier this week, he was released on probation from a three-year sentence imposed in Austria for a speech in 1989 in which he denied the Holocaust.

He served 13 months of the sentence and has now been banned from Austria.

The 68-year-old said he would urge an academic boycott of historians from Germany and Austria until the nations stopped jailing historians.

Mr Irving’s case sparked international debate about the limits of freedom of speech.

In his speech in Austria 17 years ago, he denied the existence of gas chambers at Auschwitz, though he later said he was “mistaken”.

On Wednesday, he was unexpectedly released and welcomed the decision saying he was “fit and well”.

Although Austrian authorities have permanently banned him from Austria, he told Agence France Presse: “I have no interest in coming back.”

Intense debate

On arriving back in the UK, Mr Irving hit out at what he described as a “secret society of judges” in this country who are still determined to destroy him.

“They haven’t succeeded,” he said. “My enemies are deeply shocked that I’m out. They thought I would die in prison.”

He said the case had cost him and his partner, Bente Hogh, their London home.

The BBC’s Kerry Skyring in Vienna said the presiding judge converted the remaining two years of Mr Irving’s jail term to a provisional sentence, upholding his appeal.

Both the prosecution and defence had challenged the length of the sentence. The crime carries a prison term of up to 10 years.

The 1992 law targets “whoever denies, grossly plays down, approves or tries to excuse the National Socialist genocide”.

Mr Irving’s release on probation has dismayed Jewish groups.

Lord Janner, vice-president of the World Jewish Congress and president of the Commonwealth Jewish Council, said: “I am sorry that he did not serve out his full term.”

Asked about Mr Irving’s comments about historians being put in prison, Lord Janner said: “I do not believe that he was put in prison because he was a historian. And historians should be treated in the same way as anyone else.”

Mr Irving was arrested in November last year on a motorway in southern Austria. He was visiting to give a lecture to a far-right student fraternity.

The conviction had sparked intense debate, with supporters saying it was fully justified but opponents arguing it undermined the right of freedom of speech.

At the initial trial, Mr Irving had said it was “ridiculous” he was being tried for expressing an opinion and that he had changed his views on the Holocaust.

He says he accepts the existence of death camps, but claims Auschwitz’s role as a “killing centre” has been exaggerated to pander to the tourist trade.

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Dec. 22, 2006

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This post was last updated: Friday, December 22, 2006 at 1:04 PM, Central European Time (CET)