Thirteen months after being jailed in Austria for statements denying the Holocaust, the British historian David Irving has been freed
Thirteen months after being jailed in Austria for statements denying the Holocaust, the British historian David Irving was freed Wednesday by a court in Vienna, which ruled that he could serve the remainder of his prison sentence at home on probation.
Noting that he made the statements "a long time ago, 17 years," the appeals court said it did not expect Irving, 68, to repeat the offense, and was confident he would leave Austria immediately. His lawyer, Herbert Schaller, said Irving hoped to fly to Britain on Thursday.
Denying the existence of the Holocaust is a crime in Austria, which was part of the Third Reich from 1938 to 1945. But the appeals court turned down a request by prosecutors to extend Irving's three-year sentence, instead reducing it to two years and, in effect, setting him free.
The decision drew criticism inside and outside Austria. Some Austrian commentators noted that the court's presiding judge, Ernest Maurer, has close ties to the Freedom Party, a rightist organization with a history of appealing to anti-foreign and anti-Jewish sentiment.
Irving, a prolific author of books about World War II and Nazi Germany who cultivated a second career as a globe-trotting naysayer about the extent of Nazi atrocities, was arrested in southern Austria in November 2005 while on his way to speak to a right-wing student group.
The charges against him dated back to 1989, when Irving gave a series of speeches in Austria in which he was reported to have denied there were gas chambers at the Auschwitz death camp.
Though Irving disavowed some of his most inflammatory assertions during his trial and acknowledged that the Nazis had murdered millions of Jews, a lower court sentenced him to three years in prison without probation — a sentence that was viewed as quite severe.
"Throwing someone in jail for three years for something he said 17 years ago is intolerable," Schaller said in an interview. "As an Englishman, he couldn't believe he would be imprisoned for that."
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