German Authorities Ban Right-wing Lawer From Auschwitz

Berlin - Authorities in Germany have banned a maverick right-wing lawyer from travelling to Auschwitz for fear he might use the Nazi death camp site as a platform to claim that the Holocaust never occurred, according to news reports Saturday.

The one-time leftist revolutionary who is now a rightwing radical, 69-year-old Horst Mahler, was forced to surrender his German passport to authorities, thus preventing him from crossing the border into Poland, said the newspaper reports. The move came after German intelligence agents were given a tip- off about Mahler's alleged plans to use his visit to Auschwitz to hold a news conference to proclaim that 6 million Jews were not killed by the Nazis and that the Holocaust is a myth.

"This planned public appearance by Mahler and certain of his cronies at Auschwitz is an incredible provocation," said Joerg Schoenbohm, head of law enforcement in Brandenburg state, which borders Poland. "His sole intention is to play down the crimes of the Nazis and to cast aspersions on the victims," he added.

"We had no choice but to take action to avert harm to Germany's reputation," Schoenbohm said, confirming the reports in two newspapers, Maerkische Allgemeine and Maerkische Oderzeitung. One of the most controversial figures in Germany, Mahler was recently acquitted by a court in Germany of charges stemming from remarks he made on national television saying that the September 11 attacks were "justified" and "long in coming".

The court in Hamburg ruled that had not violated any federal crime with his remarks. "It was a shock and at the same time also a feeling of: About time! Finally they have been struck in the heart. And it will probably bring about some second thoughts. And that is why I say that the action, as terrible as it was, was justified," he said.

In a related case in March involving remarks on a different German TV network, a German appeal court rejected a lower court order calling for Mahler to be jailed, but upheld a stiff fine against him.

Mahler started out in the late 1960s as a leftist and co-founder of the Red Army Faction (RAF) and defended urban guerrillas Andreas Baader and Gudrun Ensslin in court. In 1970 he joined the terrorists and went underground to join Baader, Ensslin and Ulrike Meinhoff in exile in Jordan. Following capture he spent 10 years in prison in Berlin.

Upon release he resumed legal practice in 1988 and issued public thanks to his own lawyer, Gerhard Schroeder, the current German chancellor.

Later Mahler unexpectedly announced he was joining the rightwing- extremist National Party of Germany (NPD). But in March this year Mahler suddenly abandoned the NPD, ironically after successfully defending it from a government bid to ban it.

"I have no wish to be associated with a political movement which is sanctioned even tacitly by the government," he explained to incredulous journalists.