An Australian citizen currently languishes in jail in a foreign country, having been seized from an aircraft on the basis of an arrest warrant issued in a third country. The crime alleged to have been committed by the man relates only to the fact that he has repeatedly expressed views deemed unacceptable by that country.

Yet to date no one, not even the usual conservative suspects, has spoken out about the treatment of Frederick Toben, arrested at Heathrow while en route from the US to Dubai on a German warrant for Holocaust denial. Toben’s only supporters have been the appalling David Irving and the grotesque Lady Michele Renouf, a sort of Mitford-style far-right socialite.

Toben’s views are nauseating. Moreover, he doesn’t even have the courage to stick to them consistently, denying his views in Australia but happily boasting of them to the likes of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose anti-semitic conference Toben (and Renouf) attended in 2006. But his views are irrelevant. He has a right to express them as long as he does not urge violence or deliberately cause harm in expressing them. He has been the subject of a legalised form of extraordinary rendition in order to be tried simply for expressing himself. His treatment is an offence against the basic concept of free speech. The Australian Government should be protesting long and loud to the Germans and the British about his treatment and demanding his release, however abhorrent we may find what he has to say.

Peter Fray

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