Be careful what you publish to the web
If you publish material to the web and it can be viewed in a country where there is a law against such material, you could be extradited to that country – even if you don’t live there, you don’t host the material on servers located there, and so on.
Dr Toben, a 64-year-old German academic, has used his Australian-based webiste [sic] to deny that the Holocaust took place on the scale accepted by mainstream historians. It is not a crime to express such opinions in the UK, although to do so in Germany and Austria is a specific offence.
The academic, who has now taken Australian nationality, is wanted by a district court in Mannheim, Germany, for posting information of an “anti-Semitic or revisionist nature” on the internet from 2002 onwards. He could face up to five years’ imprisonment if convicted.
In comments which will reignite a row over controversial European Arrest Warrants, Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, said that the arrest of Dr Fredrick Toben at Heathrow on Wednesday conflicted with Britain’s tradition of free speech.
Mr Huhne said the affair exposed weaknesses in the system and called on the Government to lead a campaign to reform it. He is writing to Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, and Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, urging them to lobby Brussels for a rewrite of what he described as “rough edges” in the treaty which underpins the warranges.
He called for Dr Toben’s case to be dropped and said the case demonstrated that the legislation wrongly allowed people to be arrested for actions which do not breach British law.
This is interesting in that, as Trixy points out, Huhne voted for said legislation when he was an MEP.
When the legislation went through Parliament, the then-Home Office minister Lord Filkin pledged that no-one would be extradited for conduct that was legal in Britain, if it took place in this country.
Such promises are worthless if the legislation itself does not state something along the lines of, “no-one will be extradited for conduct that is legal in Britain, if the conduct took place in Britain”.
In any case the conduct took place in Australia. It is because the pages can be viewed within Germany that Germany claims jurisdiction.
It’s an interesting proposition that a state should be allowed to punish those who deviate from its determination of historical facts, or indeed other things that ‘it’ finds offensive but that haven’t been published within its jurisdiction.
That is not to say that I endorse Holocaust denial, far from it, but I don’t see why it falls within the category of speech that should be banned.