April 27, 2009 / 9:12 PM / 10 years ago

Holocaust denier jailed for 5 years in Austria

VIENNA (Reuters) - An Austrian court jailed an ultra-rightist author for five years on Monday for propagating Nazi ideas and Holocaust denial.

Austrian Holocaust denier Gerd Honsik arrives in court on the third day of his trial in Vienna April 27, 2009. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader

Gerd Honsik’s three-day trial was marked by theatrical outbursts by the defendant who was given 18 months in prison in 1992 for similar offences linked to his book “Acquittal for Hitler?,” but fled abroad during his appeal.

Honsik, 67, spent 15 years in Spain where he returned to pro-Nazi publicity work via the Internet which prompted further charges, prosecutors said. He was extradited to Austria in 2007.

Prosecutor Stefan Apostol said he would seek a longer jail term for Honsik, who had faced up to 20 years in prison on charges of “re-engagement” in public promotion of Nazi ideology in his magazine “Halt” and several books.

Honsik denied the charges and said he would appeal against the verdict. “To impose five years in prison for exercising one’s freedom of opinion is just intolerable,” said defense lawyer Herbert Schaller.

Apostol called Honsik “one of the ideological leaders” of Europe’s neo-Nazi scene and said he had distributed his “hate magazine” at schools.

Honsik called himself a social democrat and said he had only “rejected the textbook wisdom that demonizes National Socialism.”

He argued he had never denied outright the existence of gas chambers where 6 million Jews were killed. Rather he had only ruled them out “wherever I had not verified the (facts) myself.”

After Boehm repeatedly rejected Honsik’s motions to admit evidence on Monday, calling it irrelevant, the defendant began screaming and beating his fists on his table in the dock.

“I want to be allowed to defend myself. I have nothing to lose. Statistically, I have only nine years to live,” he said.

Two far-right, anti-foreigner parties combined to win almost a third of votes in Austria’s national election in 2008. They have been accused of harboring neo-Nazis, but deny it.

Austria was part of the Third Reich in 1938-45 and provided a significant number of top Nazi leaders, including Hitler.

Spain twice rebuffed requests for Honsik’s handover because Holocaust denial and neo-Nazi propaganda were not illegal in that country. He was finally extradited after two European-wide arrest warrants were issued at Austria’s behest.

Writing by Mark Heinrich; editing by Robert Woodward

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