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French Holocaust denier loses bid to appeal against extradition

A French Holocaust denier arrested in a Scottish fishing village after two years on the run from French authorities has lost an extradition battle.

Vincent Reynouard, 54, was caught living a double life in Anstruther, Fife, and was remanded in custody while French authorities launched an extradition bid citing videos where he allegedly denied the existence of gas chambers in concentration camps.

Reynouard was arrested in November 2022 on a domestic warrant issued by a French court regarding seven videos made between September 2019 and April 2020, including one where he allegedly described the Nazi atrocities as “crude slanders” and another where he spoke of “the Jewish problem”.

The alleged offences include “public trivialisation of a war crime” and “public challenge to the existence of crimes against humanity committed during the Second World War”.

Holocaust denial has been a criminal offence in France since 1990 and Reynouard has been convicted on previous occasions, including being handed prison sentences in November 2020 and January 2021.

Following a hearing at Edinburgh Sheriff Court in October last year, Sheriff Christopher Dickson said the YouTube videos were “beyond the pale of what is tolerable in our society” and were a breach of the Communications Act, and ruled that extradition could go ahead.

Reynouard challenged the extradition, but his application for leave to appeal has been refused.

An Appeal Court written judgment from Lord Carloway issued on Friday said extradition “cannot be regarded as disproportionate” and that “any reasonable person” would be offended by the videos.

Lord Carloway said the criminality involved in sharing offensive videos online was “one of relative seriousness judged by Scottish standards”.

No specific crime exists in Scotland regarding Holocaust denial but the videos were branded “grossly offensive” by the Lord Justice, who said they were “patent falsehoods” and “threaten serious disturbance in the community”.

The videos included the denial of the massacre at Oradour, a small village destroyed by the SS on June 10 1944, with the deaths of 642 villagers, many of whom were burnt in a church, while another video denied the killing of 1.1 million people at gas chambers in the Auschwitz and Birkenau camps.

The judgment said: “The videos were, taken at their highest, racist denials of the existence of the Holocaust and other war crimes.”

Lord Carloway said the “prohibitions of such statements… were necessary in a democratic society”.

The judgment added: “The court has no hesitation in describing the appellant’s treatment of all three matters as grossly offensive. The phenomenon of ‘fake news’, in the context of the internet and social media, is well-known, as are its damaging effects.”

It added: “The denial of the holocaust is a gross insult to the members of the Jewish and other communities whose members perished at Auschwitz and Birkenau. The same applies to those living with the memory of Oradour.

“It is not necessary to be a member of the relevant communities to be grossly offended by such statements; any reasonable person would be. The other statements by the appellant about the Jewish community are anti-Semitic racism.

“Although it is not an offence to hold these views and, in certain contexts, to express them, it is a breach of section 127 of the 2007 Act to communicate them to the public on the internet.”

Reynouard’s defence was that the videos “did not involve a call to arms”, however this was dismissed by the judge.

Lord Carloway added: “This is the modern world in which posting videos on YouTube or social medial can have a significant practical and enduring consequence relative to the behaviour of others.

“It is not too difficult, especially in the present climate of tension in several parts of the world, to envisage that a repeated publication of anti-Semitic, or other racist, material could provoke serious disturbance by certain sections of society.”