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Posted Friday, October 12, 2007

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The Guardian

London, Friday October 12, 2007

Dictator among those asked to address students : University debating society under fire

BNP leader and Holocaust denier invited to Oxford Union

by Matthew Taylor
The Guardian

THE Oxford Union debating society came under fire last night after its president said he had approached Holocaust denier David Irving, British National party chairman Nick Griffin and the Belarussian dictator, Alexander Lukoshenko, to speak at forthcoming events.

Luke Tryl said he had asked Mr Irving and Mr Griffin to speak at the union's Free Speech Forum, due to take place at the end of November, adding that Mr Lukoshenko, the Belarussian president, accused of a string of human rights abuses, had been approached to address students later in the term.

"The Oxford Union is famous for is commitment to free speech and although I do think these people have awful and abhorrent views I do think Oxford students are intelligent enough to challenge and ridicule them," he told the Guardian, adding that no formal decision on who would be invited had been made.

However, the move drew widespread criticism from student groups and anti-fascist campaigners.

In a joint statement, Oxford Jewish Society presidents Daniel Bloch and Steven Altmann-Richer said: "It will be a disgrace if these discredited speakers are allowed a platform at a forum on free speech. They have an embarrassing history of disregard for legal restrictions on it. It will certainly go down as a black mark on the reputation of the Oxford Union."

Duncan Money, a second-year student at the university who says he has suffered a series of threats from rightwing extremists, said: "It is disappointing that the Oxford Union has chosen to promote and legitimise fascism ... Doubtless the controversy will bring them feverish excitement but for those of us who confront hate-filled bigots and are on the receiving end of death threats because of it, the issue is a bit more serious."

The BNP said Mr Griffin would attend the event if it went ahead. However, the invitation to Mr Lukoshenko was blocked by the Foreign Office, which said he was subject to an EU travel ban.

Mr Irving, who told the Guardian last month that he was launching a comeback speaking tour of the UK, denied that he had received any formal approach from the Oxford Union but added that he would like to speak to the students there.

"I have had many invitations to speak there in the past but they normally get withdrawn after threats of violence and intimidation. It is a pity because I think there are a lot of students who would like to hear what I have to say."

Last month the discredited historian told the Guardian that he believed the Jews were responsible for what happened to them during the second world war and that the "Jewish problem" was at the root of most of the wars of the last 100 years.


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Mr Irving's diary of his visit to Auschwitz
Mr Irving's diary of his visit to the three Reinhardt camps, Sobibor, Belzec and Treblinka
David Irving: A Radical's Diary: On The Forward interview on the Holocaust, and the interesting "Mel Gibson" theory that Jews have been behind many of last century's wars | Jewish Telegraph Agency blurts out: George W Bush's Pro-'surge' group in Iraq is almost all Jewish - Coincidence, says one, "half of the donors contributing to its $15 million ad campaign are not Jewish" - and most of the GIs, too

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