Court reduces fine for Holocaust-denying bishop

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The Independent Online

Traditionalist Catholic bishop Richard Williamson was ordered by a German court today to pay a reduced €10,000 ($13,980) fine for denying the Holocaust, a court spokesman said.

British-born Williamson, 70, had appealed against a ruling handed down in October that he pay a fine of €12,000 for comments, broadcast on Swedish television in January 2009, that no more than 300,000 Jews perished in the Holocaust and that there were no gas chambers.

The consensus among historians is that six million Jews were killed by the Nazis and denying the Holocaust is a hate crime in Germany.

At the appeal hearing in Regensburg, southern Germany, Judge Karin Frahm rejected a request from Williamson's lawyer Matthias Lossmann that the fine be nullified. Williamson did not attend.

The court spokesman said Frahm had reduced the penalty slightly because Williamson's lawyer argued he had been unaware that his comments would spread outside of Sweden on the Internet, leaving him open to prosecution in Germany.

The interview with Swedish television was conducted near Regensburg, within the court's jurisdiction.

"The ruling is not yet legally binding," the spokesman said. "There is a one week deadline for submitting an additional appeal."

The pope caused outrage among Jewish groups last year when he lifted the excommunication of Williamson and three other bishops who belong to an ultra-traditionalist Catholic splinter group, the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX).

Williamson later offered an apology for his comments, but the Vatican rejected this, saying it did not go far enough.

The ruling comes as the Vatican struggles to contain a child sex abuse scandal that has tarnished the image of the Catholic church.