Czech Supreme Court upholds Stwora's sentence for Holocaust denial
The Czech Supreme Court (Nejvyšší soud - NS) has rejected an appeal filed by the Czech Canadian Vladimír Stwora, who was given a suspended sentence for the crime of Holocaust denial. Stwora posted an article online which prosecutors say relativized the Nazi genocide of the Jews with respect to the numbers of victims and questioned the existence of the death camps and gas chambers. Stwora defended himself by saying he had merely want to spark discussion. The NS, however, believes he actually has committed a crime.
Last year after a lengthy series of trials, the Praha-západ District Court and the Regional Court in Prague sentenced Stwora to six months in prison, suspended for two years, for the crime of promoting and supporting a movement aimed at suppressing human rights and freedoms. The District Court acquitted him twice before finally convicting him. The NS ruled on his appeal in May without holding a public hearing. The ruling has just now become available online. Theoretically, Stwora still has the option of filing a constitutional complaint against the verdict. Jana Pelcová, spokesperson for the Constitutional Court, says he has not yet taken advantage of that option.
The NS ruled that the publication of such an article cannot be excused as an effort to spark discussion. "A discussion conducted in the direction in which the content of the published article was heading, i.e., in the sense of denying the Holocaust committed against the Jewish population and the methods used in the death camps, would not be tolerated under the law and would risk criminal prosecution," reads the ruling of the judges' senate, presided over by Vladimír Jurka.
Yesterday Stwora published his response to the NS verdict on his website, www.zvedavec.org. "I doubt everything and I will not let others prescribe for me what I am permitted to doubt and what not. I doubt this more today than I ever have in the past. There are dozens, hundreds, maybe even thousands of other people, who did not doubt before, but who doubt now as a result of this trial," he wrote on the website.
The case concerns the Czech translation of an article entitled "The Four Million Version of the Holocaust", published in July 2007. The text included the following: "In reality there is no evidence that poisoned gas was used in any death camp, gas chamber, or gas oven."
The prosecution charged that Stwora published the text with the intention to polemicize the "essence and extent of the Nazi genocide against the Jews during the Second World War". Stwora responded by claiming the article does not doubt the Holocaust but merely points out discrepancies in official information sources about it. He also argued his freedom of speech to express such opinions. The courts, however, reminded him that freedom of speech is not absolute and that it ends where Holocaust denial begins.
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