Germany may arrest Holocaust row bishop

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The Independent Online

Germany may issue an arrest warrant on hate crime charges against the British Holocaust-denying Catholic bishop Richard Williamson, the justice minister said today.

It is illegal to deny the Holocaust in Germany and several other EU countries.

Brigitte Zypries said officials were considering issuing an EU-wide warrant because the ultra-conservative clergyman denied the Nazi's killed six million Jews in a television interview that was recorded in Germany.

A German investigation into his remarks was already under way, she said.

"Germany could issue a European arrest warrant," she said.

A new set of EU guidelines to toughen national anti-racism and hate crime laws was passed in 2007.

They will commit all 27 EU countries to impose criminal sanctions against people or groups that publicly incite violence or hatred against other groups or persons based on race, colour, religion, descent or ethnic origin.

The guidelines also recommend EU nations impose prison sentences of up to three years for those convicted of denying genocide, such as the mass killing of Jews during the Second World War and the 1990s massacre in Rwanda.

Meanwhile the Vatican today rejected an apology from the bishop saying it was not enough to re-admit him to the church.

He apologised for his remarks yesterday but did not say his comments had been erroneous, or that he no longer believed them.

A Vatican spokesman said his statement did not seem to satisfy the conditions the Vatican set out for him.

Earlier this month the Vatican said the bishop must "absolutely and unequivocally distance himself" from his remarks if he wanted to be admitted as a prelate in the church.

The bishop's initial remarks sparked widespread outrage among Jewish groups and others. The interview was broadcast just days before the Vatican announced that it was lifting his excommunication and that of three other bishops.

The four, members of the traditionalist Society of St Pius X, had been excommunicated after being consecrated as bishops without papal consent in 1988.

Bowing to the criticism, the Vatican on February 4 demanded that bishop Williamson "absolutely and unequivocally distance himself from his remarks about the Shoah (Holocaust) if he is to be admitted to episcopal functions in the church."

The Vatican today noted that his comments were not addressed to the pope or to the Vatican's Ecclesia Dei commission, which has been dealing with the Society of St Pius X ever since its bishops were excommunicated.

The bishop issued his statement on arriving back in Britain after being expelled from Argentina.

He said he was only giving the opinion of a "non-historian" which was "formed 20 years ago on the basis of evidence then available, and rarely expressed in public since."

However, he said, "the events of recent weeks and the advice of senior members of the Society of St Pius X have persuaded me of my responsibility for much distress caused."

"To all souls that took honest scandal from what I said, before God I apologise."