Sunday, November 23, 2008

Töben Extradition - criminalising history in Europe's courts

Media Conference Announcement

Date: Monday 24th November 2008

Time: 2pm

Venue: contact Lady Renouf 0207 460 7453 between 10-12 am, thereafter mobile 07903133584, Monday

Subject: Töben Extradition - criminalising history in Europe's courts

By Lady Michelle Renouf.

The Fredrick Töben Defence Committee will hold a media conference at 2pm on Monday 24th November to discuss the serious implications for Britain and Europe of Dr. Töben's arrest and the attempt to extradite him to Germany, which failed in the High Court this week.

Until a few days ago Dr. Töben was facing a five year jail sentence. The public prosecutor in Mannheim, Germany, had openly boasted that this Australian academic, who had broken no U.K. law, would almost certainly receive and serve the maximum sentence due to his failure to "recant" historical opinions which the German state chooses to criminalise.

Dr. Töben had been arrested on 1st October while in transit at Heathrow Airport and held in prison for fifty days on a European Arrest Warrant. At Monday's media conference questions will be raised about the position of the Attorney General, Baroness Scotland, who had personally guaranteed to Parliament that no one in such cases would be extradited to Germany, then had allowed this arrest and extradition procedure to go ahead. Also under scrutiny is the position of Mr. Gareth Julian, Crown Prosecution Service head of extradition, who permitted a serious waste of public money as well as a grave injustice by permitting this process to carry on for two months, despite the inadequacy of a warrant for which the Crown is unable even to mount a case on appeal.

The function of Scotland Yard's Serious and Organised Crime Agency, which improperly certified the warrant and liased with German prosecutors, is also under an embarrassing cloud after the prosecution's ignominious retreat.

Aside from these questions of ministerial dishonour and bureaucratic incompetence on the grossest scale, there are serious issues of principle at stake in the Töben case, which would have taken the case as far as the House of Lords had German prosecutors been capable of constructing a valid arrest warrant.

Is the expansion of the European Union into the sphere of judicial affairs now allowing German law to be imposed even on passengers transiting Heathrow Airport? Is Germany's law restricting research and source critical interpretation of Holocaust history now being extended into Britain, not through Act of Parliament, but via a procedural back door? Most important of all - what is this "revisionism" which so many European states wish to criminalise, and why should the stakes be so high that an academic dispute results in long prison sentences imposed on authors, publishers and even their lawyers?

Monday's media conference will address these questions, and outline the next stage in the conflict between European criminal law and the freedom of academic research. A new initiative in U.K. education policy now seems to be governed by the same principles which underlie German criminal law, and which were spelled out in Guidelines for Teaching about the Holocaust at the Stockholm International Forum 2000: "Care must be taken not to give a platform for deniers... or seek to disprove the deniers' position through normal historical debate and rational argument".

International guests at the media conference will explain how revisionists intend to respond to these new challenges, whether in the courtroom or the classroom, while civil libertarians will examine the threat to Europe's traditions of sceptical enquiry.

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