Holocaust denier sentenced to visit concentration camps

Former politician Laurent Louis handed six-month prison sentence and $20,000 fine for breaking Belgian laws on Holocaust denial


A Belgian court handed down a unusual sentence on a former politician and Holocaust denier in the country this week: he must visit one Nazi concentration camp every year for the next five years and write about his experiences.

The New York Times, citing local news reports, says that in 2015 the former politician Laurent Louis was handed a six-month prison sentence and a $20,000 fine for breaking the country's laws on Holocaust denial. Louis, described by the American paper as a "far-right gadfly known for making inflammatory statements about Jews", wrote a series of online posts in which he questioned the number of Jews killed during the Holocaust.

He was convicted of violating a law against the "minimisation, justification or approval of the Holocaust".

But an appeals court in Brussels changed the sentence, prompting Louis to release a statement in which he wrote: "All that is left for me to do is to go and report in the death camps...No doubt, the Court has recognised my talents as a writer.”

Commentators on both sides of the Atlantic say that Louis's comments underline a rise in antisemitism in Europe, and questioned the wisdom of the new sentence, which may allow Louis to further expound the claims for which he was prosecuted. 

"Don’t see this as one crazy guy who happens to be a Holocaust denier,” Deborah E Lipstadt, a professor of history at Emory University in Atlanta, said. “When he said, ‘The court has recognised my talents as a writer?’ Give me a break. Can he write, ‘Well, I went and I didn’t see anybody being killed’ or, ‘These gas chambers were incapable of killing someone?’”

Dae Sinardet, a professor of political science at the Free University of Brussels, told the paper that Louis was a "buffoon", whose election to the Belgian parliament in 2010 was "an accident". Mr Sinardet added that Louis was expelled from serveral political parties for "borderline racist declarations".

His original comments came in blog posts he wrote in support of Jean-Marie Le Pen, the French far-right politician. Louis has also expressed support for Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala, the antisemitic French comedian.

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