A German court on Thursday convicted far-right activist Ernst Zundel of incitement for denying the Holocaust, and sentenced him to the maximum five years in prison.
The 67-year-old, who was deported from Canada in 2005, was convicted on 14 counts of incitement for years of anti-Semitic activities, including denying the Holocaust, a crime in Germany, in documents and on the Internet.
Zundel showed no emotion when Judge Ulrich Meinerzhagen read the verdict, only nodding occasionally.
Zundel and his supporters have argued that he was a peaceful campaigner being denied his right to free speech, and attorney Ludwig Bock immediately said he would appeal.
“What is notable is the iron-hard refusal of the court to allow consideration of new scientific findings or expert opinions,” Bock said.
The trial against Zundel, who has also lived in the US state of Tennessee, began in November, after a first trial attempt collapsed in March over a dispute with one of his attorneys, Sylvia Stolz, who was banned from proceedings on the grounds that she was attempting sabotage by denouncing the court as a “tool of foreign domination.”
In the current trial, Bock quoted from Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” and from Nazi race laws in his closing statements last week as he argued for Zundel’s acquittal.
Bock accused the Mannheim state court of not wanting to face a “scientific analysis” of the Holocaust, and charged that prosecutors, one of whom has termed Zundel a “rat catcher”, had defamed his client.
Another of Zundel’s five attorneys, Herbert Schaller, told the court that all evidence for the Holocaust was based only on witness reports, instead of hard facts.
In his own closing arguments, prosecutor Andreas Grossmann called Zundel a “political con man” from whom the German people must be protected, and quoted from his writings, which argue that millions of Jews did not die at the hands of the Nazis.
“You might as well argue that the sun rises in the west,” Grossmann said when asking that Zundel be given the maximum sentence. “But you cannot change that the Holocaust has been proven.”