(JTA) — An ultra-right Catholic sect has banned a controversial bishop from speaking at his own trial on charges of failing to pay a fine imposed for Holocaust denial.
Richard Williamson’s trial opens Friday in Regensburg. Holocaust denial is illegal in Germany.
Williamson, a cleric in the Society of Saint Pius X, which broke off from the Catholic Church, lives in London.
The religious group’s general superior, Bernard Fellay, barred Williamson in March from "conducting public discourse that is not strictly related to religious themes," according to German newspaper reports.
Fellay reportedly wrote to Williamson saying that he should not enable the court and its prosecuting attorneys to "reconstruct the situation to their advantage."
Williamson was fined $22,473 in 2009 on charges related to a six-minute television interview in Regensburg in late 2008 with the Swedish SVT broadcaster in which he called the murder of Jews in gas chambers "lies, lies, lies."
Williamson allegedly denied that any Jews were murdered in gas chambers during the Holocaust, and insisted that not more than 300,000 European Jews were killed in all.
According to reports, the second trial was ordered after Williamson refused to pay the fine. He is not required by law to be present at Friday’s trial.
The British-born cleric is one of four bishops whom Pope Benedict XVI rehabilitated in January 2009 in hopes of healing a rift between conservative and progressive Catholics.