Romanian court to rule on case of former intelligence official charged with Holocaust denial

A Bucharest court is expected to deliver a verdict in the case of a former Romanian intelligence officer who is charged with denying the Holocaust, Radio France Internationale reported.

If former colonel Vasile Zarnescu is convicted on Monday, it  would be the first time a court has convicted someone for Holocaust denial in Romania.

The former officer, who worked for the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI), wrote a book called “The Holocaust-the diabolical Bogeyman- the extortion of money in the name of the Holocaust money  (in Romanian “Holocaustul – Gogorița diabolică – Extorcarea de ‘bani de holocaust’) in 2015 in which he asserts that the killing of six million Jews is “the biggest fraud in the history of the universe.”

The book launch was scheduled for April 8 at the Mihai Eminescu bookshop in Bucharest, but was canceled. Prosecutors opened an inquiry into the case, BBC journalist Petru Clej wrote in an article for RFI. The former officer was sent to trial in 2020.

Holocaust denial, including denial of the Holocaust in Romania, which was allied to Nazi Germany for part of World War II, was first made illegal has been illegal in an emergency decree published in 2002 which was ratified by Parliament in in 2006. The law was updated in 2015.

It carries a punishment of between six months and three years, or a fine.

However, since it became law almost 19 years ago, nobody has been convicted of Holocaust denial in Romania.

In 2016 Vasile Zărnescu called the 2002 decree “unconstitutional” and “criminal,” in an interview with Radio France Internationale.

In 2019, the European Court of Human Rights ruled in the case of Udo Pastors against Germany that Holocaust denial is not protected by freedom of expression even in Parliament and is “an incitement to hatred.”

Mr Pastors, who led the far-right NDP is a German politician and convicted Holocaust denier.

The Court held that, although statements made in Parliament must be closely scrutinized, they deserve little, if any, protection if their content is at odds with the democratic values of the human rights court system.

The Elie Wiesel International Committee for the Study of the Holocaust published a report in 2004 saying that Romanian authorities were responsible for the deaths of 280,000 to 380,000 Jews and 11,000 Roma from 1940 to 1944.

The district three court is expected to issue its ruling on Monday morning. The ruling isn’t final and can be appealed.


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