Notorious Holocaust-Denying Bishop Richard Williamson Loses Appeal Against Conviction in Germany
A controversial Catholic bishop has lost his appeal against a criminal conviction in Germany over remarks he made more than a decade ago denying the Holocaust.
In 2008, Richard Williamson — a traditionalist bishop who disavows the modern Catholic teaching collectively absolving the Jews for the murder of Jesus — was fined 1,800 euros for denying the existence of gas chambers in the Nazi death camps during an interview with Swedish TV that was conducted in Germany. Holocaust denial is illegal in Germany, and violators face fines and even custodial sentences for repeated offenses.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg rejected Williamson’s appeal as “manifestly ill-founded,” describing the sentence imposed on him as “very lenient.” Originally, Williamson had been fined 12,000 euros, but the amount was lowered following an appeal.
Williamson, who is British, argued that the 2013 sentence violated his right to free expression and that Swedish rather than German law should have applied to the interview. Holocaust denial is not illegal in Sweden.
But the court said Williamson had clearly known his comments would cause concern, not just in Sweden but worldwide. He did not seek to make special arrangements to ensure that the interview would not be available beyond Sweden, the court noted, and would have been aware that it would have been accessible elsewhere via satellite TV and the internet.
At the time that Williamson, now 78, gave the interview, he was a bishop in the ultra-traditionalist Catholic group the Society of Saint Pius X. The Society expelled Williamson in 2012 for disobedience.
Williamson was excommunicated by the Vatican in 1988 after being consecrated by the rebel Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, but was allowed back into the church in 2009. After carrying out an unauthorized consecration of a bishop in Brazil, he was excommunicated again in 2015.