Right-wing extremist Ernst Zündel is due to arrive in Germany on Tuesday. Canada, his adopted home for two-thirds of his life, is extraditing him to face a German court in his country of birth for denying the Holocaust.
Zündel faces arrest upon his arrival in Germany
After Ernst Zündel spent two years in a Toronto jail, a federal judge in Ottawa decided the 65-year-old should be extradited to Germany for presenting both a national and an international security risk. Zündel -- who the German authorities will immediately arrest upon his arrival on Tuesday, Canadian Press reported -- is notorious for denying the Holocaust and propagating neo-Nazi and anti-Semitic ideas.
"Mr. Zundel's activities are not only a threat to Canada's national security but also a threat to the international community of nations," Federal Court Justice Blais Richter said in his decision last week. He described Zündel as a Hitler sympathizer determined to propagate the neo-Nazi movement and a "leader of international significance" among white supremacists.
According to German law, people who disperse Nazi propaganda or deny the genocide against the Jews, inciting racial hatred and disparaging the dead, may be sentenced to prison. And even though Zündel didn't do so from Germany, he can still be held accountable here.
Zündel supporters in early Feb. outside the Canadian consulate in Los Angeles demanded he should be released from jail in Toronto.
For years, Zündel has published texts such as "Why I love Hitler" and pseudo-scientific studies claiming that people weren't killed in Auschwitz, which he's distributed by mail in Germany and the United States. Although the Canadian authorities temporarily blocked Zündel from sending post, the advent of the Internet allowed him to spread his theories without interference for some time. Zündel's virulently racist and anti-Semitic Web site was eventually shut down but later brought back to life by his closest collaborators, including his wife.
Since immigrating to Canada in 1958, he has repeatedly been prosecuted for inciting racial hatred there but was only sentenced to negligible penalties. Still, he saw himself as a martyr and tried to escape the pressure by moving to the US in 2001. After two years, the US authorities deported him for overstaying his visa.
Back in Canada, he was promptly arrested and a long legal wrangle began. Zündel, who has been denied Canadian citizenship twice, tried applying for political asylum, which was also refused.
More than a slap on the hand?
B'nai Brith and other Jewish organizations in Canada welcomed the decision to extradite Zündel.
''It is time for Zündel's plane to take off. This should mark a closure to the tireless efforts of many to bring Zündel to justice,'' said Frank Dimant, executive vice president of B'nai Brith of Canada.
''The court has rightfully labeled Zündel as a hatemonger and provocateur and therefore a danger to all Canadians,'' Dimant told the Canadian press.
But Canadian Civil Liberties Association lawyer Alan Borovoy criticized the trial as unfair and Zündel's confinement for two years without charge unjustifiable, regardless of the plaintiff's views.
Trial in Germany
According to Canadian press reports, Zündel is wanted on an outstanding warrant in Germany. He has been accused of denying the Holocaust, a criminal offence in Germany. He was convicted in absentia and fined for a similar offence several years ago, and is likely to get a substantial jail term if found guilty of a second offence.
But precedents suggest that when Zündel arrives in the country where he spent his first 19 years, he doesn't necessarily have much to fear.
Frederick Toben, a former German living in Australia who also counts among the world's hardcore prominent Holocaust deniers, was one of the first people to be prosecuted under new legislation passed in late 2000. Toben was sentenced to 10 months in prison, but was able to leave the country without serving the full jail term. Since then he's been present at numerous neo-Nazi gatherings and events worldwide.