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Controversial clergyman

July 4, 2011

A bishop convicted of denying the Holocaust has skipped the start of his own appeal in a German court. Richard Williamson was convicted of sedition and fined for denying the Holocaust.

Richard Williamson
Williamson was excommunicated once, but the pope reinstated himImage: AP

British bishop Richard Williamson was not present at the opening of his appeal on Monday in Germany.

Williamson, a member of the ultra-conservative Saint Pius X Society, was fined 10,000 euros ($14,000) last year by a Regensburg court for statements he made to a Swedish TV station denying the Holocaust.

His lawyer Edgar Weiler said that the interview, which was widely circulated over the Internet, was never intended to be seen by the German public.

Weiler said the appeals process did not concern the substance of the comments, but "exclusively the jurisdiction of the German judiciary and the issue of public utterance."

In the interview with Swedish TV at the beginning of last year, Williamson suggested that the number of Jews murdered by the Nazis was actually 200,000-300,000 - far lower than the six million historians say were killed. Williamson also suggested that "not one" of them was killed in a gas chamber.

Protest from Merkel

Holocaust denial is a criminal offense in Germany and Austria. Williamson had asked the Swedish station to ensure that the footage was never shown in Germany.

Williamson's views have caused problems for the Catholic Church. The January 2008 reversal of Williamson's excommunication by Pope Benedict XVI drew criticism from many, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who demanded that the pope "clarify unambiguously that there can be no denying" that the Nazis killed six million Jews.

Author: Sarah Harman (KNA, dpa)
Editor: Nancy Isenson