'Holocaust denier' Irving freed from jail

Wednesday 20 December 2006 12:32

British author David Irving today welcomed his release from an Austrian prison after serving more than a year following his conviction on charges of denying the Holocaust and said he was "fit and well".

He said he would be calling for an academic boycott of German and Austrian historians until their governments stopped putting historians in prison.

He was released after Vienna's highest court granted his appeal and ruled to convert two-thirds of his three-year sentence into probation.

Since he had already spent more than 13 months behind bars, the ruling meant he would be released.

He said later: "I'm returning to England. I'm fit and well but feeling sorry for my family.

"I'm calling for the academic boycott until the German and Austrian governments stop putting historians in prison.

"I was put in prison for three years for expressing an opinion 17 years ago."

His partner, Bente Hogh, 43, who lives in Chelsea, London, said: "He's rung to say he's coming back. It was half expected, because he has served over a year. I'm pleased - I don't think it was fair, to be honest."

The couple have lived together for 15 years.

Irving, 68, was sentenced in February under a 1992 law which applies to "whoever denies, grossly plays down, approves or tries to excuse the National Socialist genocide or other National Socialist crimes against humanity in a print publication, in broadcast or other media".

The law calls for a prison term of up to 10 years.

During his one-day trial, he pleaded guilty to the charge of denying the Holocaust but maintained he never questioned it in the first place.

Both the defence and the prosecution appealed against the sentence. In September, Austria's highest court upheld his conviction.

Irving has been in custody since his November 2005 arrest on charges arising from two speeches he gave in Austria in 1989 for which he was accused of denying the Nazis' extermination of six million Jews.

He has argued that most of those who died at concentration camps including Auschwitz succumbed to diseases such as typhus rather than execution.

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