Spanish Holocaust Denier Arrested

Pedro Varela, former head of one of Europe's oldest and most active neo-Nazi groups, was arrested in northeast Spain and charged with defending genocide. Police seized 5,000 copies of some 20 books at Varela's Europa bookstore in Barcelona.

Varela was freed on bail, but could face up to five years in prison. He was charged under laws adopted in 1995, 20 years after the death of Gen. Francisco Franco, the extreme-right dictator who was an ally to Hitler and Mussolini.

Varela headed for years a neo-Nazi group called CEDADE, the Spanish-language acronym for his Spanish Circle of Friends of Europe. CEDADE dissolved in 1993, but Varela continued to run its bookstore and publishing house.

In 1997, Varela was arrested for similar offenses and sentenced to five years in prison. Ultimately, however, he won a long legal battle and avoided serving time.

Varela was only the latest of a rash of European Holocaust deniers to be arrested and prosecuted. The best-known case is that of British writer David Irving, who recently began a three-year prison sentence in Austria for denying the existence of gas chambers in Auschwitz in secret speeches given in that country years earlier.