Holocaust denier Irving attempts to appeal libel verdict

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LONDON — A British court is considering Holocaust denier David Irving's request to appeal his defeat last year in a libel suit he brought against an American scholar.

In a highly publicized case in London last year, Irving lost his lawsuit against Deborah Lipstadt and her publisher, Penguin Books, who had accused him of being a Holocaust denier.

In what was a crushing defeat for Irving, Britain's Supreme Court ruled in April 2000 that he was a racist who had deliberately misrepresented and distorted historical evidence about the Holocaust. The court found that Irving had portrayed Hitler in a favorable light for ideological reasons.

Irving was ordered at the time to pay Lipstadt's legal costs, estimated at nearly $3 million. The ruling ruined him financially.

Irving, 63, is now requesting permission to appeal the verdict.

Under the British legal system, the right to appeal is not automatic in all cases.

Irving's written request for an appeal had already been rejected, but he was granted the right to an oral request.

The Court of Appeal is expected to decide by the end of July whether to grant the appeal.

Irving claims evidence that should have been permitted at the original trial was disallowed.

James Libson of the law firm Mischon de Reya, which is advising Lipstadt, told the Lawyer magazine that Irving's case has no merit.

"Irving is looking for anything to attack the judgment on," he said. "Our client would like this to be over now. It has taken up nearly six years of her life."

After representing himself last time, Irving now has a legal team presenting his case.

In four days of oral arguments earlier this month, Irving's lawyer, Adrian Davies, maintained that his client did not approve of the murder of Jews in the Holocaust.

"Nowhere in the entire core of Mr. Irving's work has he said anything which remotely began to suggest that he thought the Nazis did a jolly good thing — or even an excusable thing — in rounding up all the Jews in Eastern Europe and putting them into camps," Davies said.

He said Irving did not deny that Jews had died in concentration camps, but that the systematic murder of Europe's Jews was not Nazi policy until 1943.

Davies said that while Irving might have "poor judgment" as a researcher, that did not make him a falsifier of history.

Justice Charles Gray's ruling last year found that Irving "misrepresented and distorted" historical evidence and that he was "anti-Semitic and racist and that he associates with right-wing extremists who promote neo-Nazism."

Richard Rampton, defending Lipstadt, told the Court of Appeal that the weight of evidence against Irving in the original case was "absolutely crushing."

It is unusual for an oral request for appeal to go on for days; they usually last a few hours.

One source close to the case said Irving was trying to turn the appeal request into an appeal itself.

If the court finds that Irving's request has no merit, it can deny him permission to appeal.

In theory, he could fight that decision in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, on the basis that Britain refused him a fair trial.

A decision to grant Irving the right to appeal would not imply that the Court of Appeal thinks the original ruling was incorrect, only that there are grounds for re-examining it.

Irving's own online diary of the case suggests that his lawyers think the case is going badly for him.

Last Friday, Davies is quoted as telling Irving "at least we can go down with all guns firing."

"Go down?" Irving asks him.

"We're going down," Davies replies firmly.