Thursday, October 15, 2009

Indictment of Bishop Williamson sought

Prosecutors seek summary fine

Regensburg, Germany - Richard Williamson, a British-born Catholic fundamentalist clergyman who has claimed the Nazis had no Holocaust gas chambers, may face a summary fine in Germany, a judge disclosed Thursday.

In Germany, denying the Holocaust is a hate crime. If Williamson accepts the fine as a penalty for sedition, he would not have to appear in court.

Johann Ploed, a judge in the city of Regensburg, declined to say what the penalty would be, but said, 'It would likely be a fine.' The prosecutors had applied Wednesday for the fine, but only judges can order it. They needed a week to review the case, he said.

Pope Benedict XVI repealed in January the excommunication of Williamson, who has been consecrated a bishop by his own Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX). Williamson's anti-Holocaust remarks on German soil to a Swedish interviewer became public knowledge soon after.

Speaking late last year, Williamson, 69, alleged that the Nazi gas chambers had never existed, and 'only 200,000 to 300,000 Jews' had been killed by the Nazis. He was speaking at an SSPX seminary near Regensburg.

Williamson has said through his lawyer that he was assured his remarks would not be broadcast in Germany, but only in Sweden, a nation where there is no law against Holocaust denial.

A Munich newspaper, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, said the prosecutors had received a letter from the Swedish television producers in which they denied offering any assurance to Williamson that the interview, conducted in English, would be broadcast in Sweden only.

Presiding judge Ploed said that since Williamson does not live in Germany, any summary fine could be served on his attorney instead.

Williamson's remarks outraged many Catholics and Jews, and led to criticism of the Vatican reconciliation with the SSPX splinter group.

Historical research using population data suggests between 5 million and 6 million European Jews were killed by privation and violence during the Second World War. The Yad Vashem memorial in Jerusalem estimates it has names of up to 4 million.

They met their deaths in different ways. Hundreds of thousands of Jews were 'exterminated' with gas at Auschwitz death camp.