Romania: first conviction for a Holocaust denier
A Bucharest district court has sentenced Holocaust denier Vasile I. Zărnescu, whose views have been known for decades, to a prison sentence of 13 months on probation. This is the first time the option of punishing Holocaust denial with a prison sentence of up to five years, which has existed since 2002, has been used. But the country's commentators say tougher action is needed.
Consistent crackdowns are key
The Romanian state needs to take far tougher action against such deniers, editor Flavia Drăgan writes in Newsweek România:
“You know how many criminal cases related to Holocaust denial, the founding of fascist organisations, celebrating the cult of war criminals or people guilty of genocide were tried last year? 65. Do you know how many convictions there were? Just one. ... The Romanian state should make the fight against Holocaust denial its priority. Holocaust deniers and supporters of Romanian fascism will in no way feel discouraged by the decision against Zărnescu. On the contrary, they'll now shout even louder that they're being persecuted.”
Just the tip of the iceberg
RFI România hopes the verdict will raise public awareness:
“The judgment revolved around two articles published by the former SRI [Romanian Intelligence Service] officer. But we must not forget that his book, in which he denies the crimes, was to be presented in a bookshop in the centre of Bucharest. Meaning that at least one publisher was willing to print it. ... So things are more complicated than they seem, and the Zărnescu case could be just the tip of the iceberg. ... The ruling, which is not yet legally binding, could also prompt reflection on the dangers posed by the rise of the far right and ultra-nationalism. Because in a Europe dominated by coronavirus restrictions, a dangerous alliance between coronavirus deniers, neo-fascists and Holocaust deniers is emerging.”