Legal challenge on seizure of anti-Semitic fantasy

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ANTI-SEMITIC killers whose psychotic adventures form the narrative of novels and comic books do not have the power to deprave or corrupt, an appeal judge will be told today.

The publisher and author of Lord Horror, a surreal anti-Semitic fantasy based loosely on the war-time traitor William Joyce, will appeal to the crown court in Manchester to quash an order to forfeit and destroy copies of the book, and the comic Meng and Ecker. The trial is being seen as the biggest literature obscenity case since the seizures in 1971 of The Little Red Book and Last Exit to Brooklyn.

Michael Butterworth, the publisher, and David Britton, the author, allege that the works were wrongly interpreted as profoundly anti-Semitic by Derek Fairclough, the Manchester stipendiary magistrate, last year, after Greater Manchester Police seized copies of the book and the comic along with pornography.

Sir James Anderton, the former Chief Constable of Greater Manchester, is depicted on the front of the comic with his head severed. In Lord Horror, Sir James' controversial Aids speech in which he was critical of homosexuality is reworked satirically in an anti-Semitic idiom, with Jews replacing homosexuals.

Lord Horror kills hundreds of Jews in the novel, a work described by its author and publisher as 'an exploration of the psychotic mind'.

Lord Horror is searching for Adolf Hitler, as both have survived the war, but they fail to meet because of a series of farcical incidents.

The comic-strip characters Meng and Ecker, inspired by Joseph Mengele, the 'Butcher of Auschwitz' are similarly bloodthirsty, their racist dialogue meant to be 'extrapolation to the point of ridicule of racist street jokes and the xenophobia of much pulp fiction'.

Ian Lewis, solicitor for Mr Butterworth and Mr Britton, believes the forfeiture order, made under the 1959 Obscene Publications Act, is the first affecting works of literature since 1971.

Today's appeal, led by Geoffrey Robertson QC, will claim that freedom of expression has been breached by orders against publications that do not endorse or encourage anti-Semitic behaviour.

Section 4 of the Act says forfeiture should not be made if the public good is served by works of literature. Some critics have claimed Lord Horror and Meng and Ecker have little or no literary merit, but other authors have criticised the stipendiary magistrate's order.

The publishing industry is following the case closely, and the anti-censorship group Article 19 has supported Mr Butterworth and Mr Britton.