November 27, 2000 Zuendel throws in towel at human-rights proceeding by KIRK MAKIN, Globe and Mail Update As a human-rights proceeding against Holocaust denier Ernst Zuendel approached its record-shattering fifth year yesterday, someone was notably absent from the hearing room. Mr. Zuendel (right) has thrown in the towel. After devoting an estimated $140,000 to his defence as well as numerous days spent strategizing and sitting in hearing rooms, the notorious Holocaust revisionist said he is tired of being a patsy. "I would rather save my money and appeal their grotesque ruling when it comes out," he said in an interview. "The reason I'm not there is my disdain for these people. It is perfectly clear to me that the courts of Canada have simply decided that Ernst Zuende= l has got to go. They are going to nail me." However, at the Canadian Human Rights Commission hearing where Mr. Zuendel is charged with using the Internet to promote racial hatred, it was business as usual. A half-dozen lawyers for various Jewish groups and commission counsel did battle yesterday with Paul Fromm, (below), a figure on the extreme right who has intervened in the hearing in support of free speech. Mr. Fromm contends that the media and human-rights bodies have historically attached unfair labels to spokesmen on the far right, referring to them as racists, bigots and Nazi sympathizers. Mr. Fromm shares Mr. Zuendel's belief that the Internet should be a place for lively debate of even the most sensitive historical issues. The ruling in the Zuendel case will be the first on whether Internet service providers and Web sites can be restrained by human-rights legislation. Mr. Zuendel maintains in his defence that he has no control over the California-based Web site, and that in any event, the commission is not empowered to regulate the Internet. Opposing him and his associates are a formidable array of legal talent representing the commission, complainant Sabina Citron, B'nai Brith Canada, the Canadian Jewish Congress and the Simon Wiesenthal Center. The previous record for a Canadian Human Rights Commission complaint - five hearing days - was surpassed long ago by the Zuendel proceedings. The Zuen= del hearing has now consumed 48 hearing days. Signs of the passage of time are numerous. One of the three panel commissioners resigned from the case a couple of years ago, citing the time it was eating up. The original commission counsel, Ian Binnie, is now a justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. There is also a village-like atmosphere in the hearing room, a development that tends to characterize all legal proceedings which stretch on interminably. "The case has been going on so long that we're punchy," John Rosen, a lawyer for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, remarked in an interview. The frequent delays in the case are largely the result of Mr. Zuendel's applications for judicial reviews of rulings made by the commissioners. By Mr. Zuendel's own count, 54 rulings have been made since the proceeding began. He ended up on the losing side of 53 of them, he said, including a recent attempt to have one of the remaining commissioners, Reva Devins, removed because of potential bias. "We have seen some of the most incredible, unusual rulings," Mr. Zuendel said. "Truth is not relevant, and my intentions are not admissible, so this is no longer a court. Ernst Zuendel has been so demonized that the courts n= o longer look at the facts." Yesterday, Mr. Fromm put yet another familiar name from the far right, publisher Ron Gostick, in the witness box. He introduced Mr. Gostick as a man who "in some ways, is a victim of antihate legislation." Mr. Gostick testified that numerous Crown authorities have failed to find anything he has written that violated a law, yet he has been pursued by the media and hounded out of meetings halls by angry Jewish groups. "Are you pro-Nazi?" Mr. Fromm asked in one of the more bizarre exchanges of the day. "I'm just as anti-Nazi as I am anti-Communist," Mr. Gostick replied. "Are you, or have you ever been, a member of the Ku Klux Klan?" "No way," Mr. Gostick said. The commission has set aside the next two weeks for evidence. Closing arguments are expected to begin in early 2001, and the commission could easily take one or two years to render its decision. The worst penalty it can levy is to order Mr. Zuendel to stop operating the Web site, if he really does.
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