Holocaust denier faces longer jail-term after u-turn on retraction

By Bojan Pancevski

VIENNA - Far-right author David Irving's repudiation of his views on the Holocaust and Hitler's role in it has not lasted very long. In a prison interview just days after he told an Austrian court he had been wrong to deny the Holocaust, he reverted to insisting that the slaughter in Nazi death camps was exaggerated, and that Jews "bear blame for what happened".

His latest statements, made just two days after he was convicted of Holocaust denial, could see him end up back in court. Prosecutors are demanding an increase in his jail sentence, and the Austrian supreme court must now decide whether he goes down for the full 10 years.

Speaking through a telephone behind a thick glass panel in a visitors' room at the Josefstadt prison in central Vienna, Irving, who is appealing against his three-year prison sentence, appeared unrepentant and referred to himself as a political prisoner.

As he entered the visitors' room, unshaven and wearing a prison-issue blue shirt, shabby trousers and a pair of old trainers, he was escorted by a burly, uniformed prison warden.

But he appeared in high spirits and denied he was having personal difficulties, insisting that his Danish partner, Bente Hogh, could not visit him because she was sick.

A shortage of money now means Hogh and the couple's 12-year-old daughter Jessica face eviction from their expensive London flat. She told the Daily Mail that Jessica now carries a copy of The Diary of Anne Frank to make plain her disagreement with her father. "She hates his views. She is a lovely girl, bright and clever, and it is not her fault who her father is," she said. "It is easier for her when he is not around."

The author was jailed last week for three years for denying the Holocaust during two lectures and in a newspaper interview in Austria nearly 17 years ago.

But despite the conviction, the 67-year-old did not shy away from the subject. Irving complained that the Jews held far too much power and predicted their disproportionate control in the US would see a second Holocaust "in 20 to 30 years".

Just days after he told the Viennese court, "I've changed my views," he said it was part of the human condition to dislike Jews and that they were at least in part to blame for the 3000 years of hatred they had had to endure.

Irving is locked up for 23 hours a day and is taking medication for a heart condition.

He gets one hour's exercise a day - "in a yard half the size of my drawing room, walking around with 70 other men who are robbers, rapists, swindlers, murderers and cocaine dealers".

Meanwhile, in Wiltshire, his elder brother, John, campaigns against exactly the sort of prejudice that Irving displays. John Irving, 75, is chairman of Wiltshire Racial Equality Council and a devout Muslim.

Living on a pig farm in Trowbridge, Wiltshire, John Irving may is probably Britain's only Muslim pig farmer. He converted to Islam in 1981 while commanding soldiers for the Sultan of Oman. He now attends Trowbridge's mosque on a regular basis for prayer.

Asked about his brother, John refers to Genesis, chapter four, verse nine: "Then the Lord said to Cain, 'Where is Abel, your brother?' And he said, 'I do not know. Am I my brother's keeper?' I value family harmony," he said. "He is my brother and that is all there is to say. My primary concerns are for racial harmony."

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