Irving held in Austria for allegedly denying existence of gas chambers

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David Irving, the controversial British historian, has been arrested in Austria on suspicion of giving speeches in which he allegedly denied the existence of the gas chambers in the Nazi death camps.

The state prosecutor's office in Vienna yesterday confirmed that Mr Irving, 67, who lost a libel case against Penguin Books and an American historian five years ago and was financially ruined as a result, was in investigative custody pending inquiries as to whether he would be tried on charges dating from 1989. Holocaust denial is a criminal offence in Austria.

Mr Irving, deported from Austria in 1984 and barred from the country, was arrested last Friday while driving from the southern province of Styria to Vienna, apparently to give a lecture to a student fraternity. Under Austrian legislation outlawing Holocaust denial and the "reactivation law" that criminalises active support for Nazism, he was charged in his absence in November 1989 after delivering two speeches to similar student fraternities in Austria allegedly denying the existence of the gas chambers. The charge carries a prison sentence of up to 20 years.

The author of more than 20 revisionist books of history, notably Hitler's War, infamous for his campaigns to belittle the crimes of the Holocaust and to play down Hitler's knowledge of and participation in the Final Solution, Mr Irving suffered disgrace five years ago when a high court judge ruled that he was an anti-semite, a racist, a liar and a falsifier of the history of the second world war.

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