Text size

An Australian who has denied the Holocaust occurred was sentenced Wednesday to three months in prison for defying an order to stop publishing anti-Semitic material on his Web site.

Fredrick Toben remained free after the sentencing, however, because the judge gave him two weeks to lodge an appeal.

Justice Bruce Lander of the Federal Court found Toben, 65, guilty of 24 counts of contempt of a 2002 court ruling that barred him from publishing anti-Semitic material on the Web site of his organization, the Adelaide Institute.

The material found to be in breach of the order included suggestions the Holocaust did not happen, that questioned whether there were gas chambers at the Auschwitz death camp, and that challenged the intelligence of Jews who questioned Holocaust deniers' beliefs.

Toben said the ruling was a defeat for free speech.

"I am quite prepared to sacrifice my physical comforts for the sake of free expression," Toben told reporters outside the court.

Toben last year avoided prosecution in Germany on a Holocaust denying charge when a British court ruled against extraditing him after he was arrested in London on a German warrant. Prosecutors said at the time they still wanted to pursue the charge.

Toben was previously arrested while traveling through Germany and convicted by the Mannheim court of Holocaust denial in 1999. He served seven months in prison before being released.

The case against Toben stemmed from allegations made by Jeremy Jones, a former president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, who welcomed Wednesday's ruling as a victory against the vilification of minorities online.

In Australian law we have very open debate on most subjects, but that debate does not include a right to insult and abuse and humiliate people based on their race and ethnicity, Jones told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.

Toben participated in Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's 2006 conference called to debate whether the World War II genocide of Jews took place, where he argued the Auschwitz death camp was too small for the mass murder of Jews to have been carried out there.

He suggested only 2,007 people could have been killed at the camp.

Researchers estimate that between 1.1 million and 1.5 million people - mainly Jews - were killed at Auschwitz by the Nazis. In total, six million Jews were killed in the genocide.