Germany could push for Holocaust bishop's extradition
Germany could demand the extradition of British bishop Richard Williamson to try him for Holocaust denial, Berlin's justice minister said Friday, dpa reported.
"In principle, the offence falls under the rules of the European Arrest Warrant. That means that Germany could indeed issue such a warrant," Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries told journalists in Brussels after a meeting with EU counterparts.
This is because an interview in which Williamson questioned the scale of the Holocaust, broadcast in Sweden, was recorded in Germany, giving the German courts jurisdiction, she said. The bishop is already under investigation in Germany for his comments.
Holocaust denial is a crime in Germany. It is not a specific crime in Britain, where laws limiting hate speech focus rather on instigation to hatred or violence.
Williamson returned to Britain on Wednesday after being expelled from Argentina.
If Germany were to issue an arrest warrant in his name, it would not automatically force the British government to extradite him, but would certainly force the authorities to take a very close look at the case.
Williamson, in an interview with Swedish television last November, had said he believed that "up to 300,000 Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps but none of them in gas chambers."
"I believe there were no gas chambers during World War II," he said.
Those comments were "unacceptable" and an "attack on reality," EU Justice Commissioner Jacques Barrot said on Friday.
But the EU does not yet have concerted rules in place which would allow for his prosecution, leaving the response in the hands of individual governments, he pointed out.
EU member states agreed a law criminalizing hate speech and incitement to violence in November, but "it is unfortunately too early to apply it, because it has not yet been written into national laws," Barrot said.
The justice ministers of the Czech Republic and Sweden - current and future holders of the EU's rotating presidency - said that any decision to prosecute Williamson for his comments would have to come from the courts in individual member states, not politicians.
On Friday the 68-year-old Williamson published a statement saying that he regretted the controversy he had caused on the website of the British arm of the ultra-conservative Society of Saint Pius X, of which he is a member.