German neo-Nazi convicted of Holocaust denial

The Associated Press/February 25, 2009

Berlin - A founding member of a left-wing terrorist group turned neo-Nazi was convicted Wednesday in Munich of Holocaust denial and sentenced to six years in prison after a judge accused him of using the courtroom to spread his message of hate.

Horst Mahler - a founder of the Red Army Faction in 1970 - was convicted of incitement for posting videos denying the Holocaust on the Internet and distributing CDs promoting anti-Jewish hatred and violence. Denial of the Nazi Holocaust is a crime in Germany.

Mahler, who initiated the Munich state court case by filing a complaint against himself, was accused by Presiding Judge Martin Rieder as using the courtroom as a stage to promote his "nationalist croaking."

Mahler used his right to make a closing statement at the trial to give an hours-long monologue, repeating his denial of the Holocaust and expressing his sympathy for Richard Williamson, the Roman Catholic bishop whose assertion that no Jews were gassed during the Holocaust embarrassed the Vatican.

"The rage of the people is at the boiling point," he said in defense of Williamson, telling the judges: "Watch out that you don't get scalded."

Rieder sentenced Mahler to one year above the maximum recommended five years in prison, saying he is "completely unrepentant and totally unteachable."

"It was as if these people have had to die again," Rieder said. "Therefore, the Horst Mahler show has now ended."

The Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem hailed the verdict and sentence.

"It reinforces the message that there's no tolerance for Holocaust denial, and it is a strong reminder that the courts should not be misused by deniers to disseminate their lies," said the Wiesenthal Center's Efraim Zuroff.

Mahler did not say in court whether he would appeal the sentence but prosecutor Andrea Titz said she was certain he would.

It was the latest in a string of neo-Nazi-related convictions for Mahler, who is a lawyer. In addition, a court in Mainz in 2003 found Mahler guilty of condoning a crime for saying the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in the United States were justified and fined him several thousand euros (dollars).

He was also convicted in the mid-1970s for Red Army Faction-related activities - including several bank robberies and for helping notorious terrorist Andreas Baader, another founding member of the group, to escape from jail.

He was sentenced to 14 years in prison but was released in 1980 after he made several public statements condemning terrorism and Red Army Faction methods.

Mahler then joined the far-right National Democratic Party, from 2000 to 2003, and acted as its attorney.

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