Canada native leader cleared in second hate trial

Mon Feb 23, 2009 12:33pm EST
 

OTTAWA (Reuters) - A Canadian native Indian leader who called Jews a "disease" was found not guilty on Monday of willfully promoting hatred, although the judge said the comments were "revolting, disgusting and untrue", the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported.

The trial was the second for David Ahenakew, 75, who told a local newspaper in the western province of Saskatchewan that Jews were a "disease" that Hitler was trying to "clean up" when he "fried six million of those guys".

Saskatchewan provincial court Judge Wilfred Tucker ruled that prosecutors had not proven that Ahenakew -- who made the remarks in a conversation with a reporter -- actively intended to promote hatred.

"Thank God it's over, and I mean that," the CBC quoted Ahenakew as telling reporters as he left the courthouse. "It's been awful."

Ahenakew, the former head of the Assembly of First Nations, was convicted of hate crimes in 2005 and successfully appealed the decision in 2006. He was fined C$1,000 ($800) after his initial conviction and stripped of the Order of Canada, the country's highest civilian honor.

During the second trial, Ahenakew told the court that he believed Jews had caused World War Two.

The Canadian Jewish Congress said in a statement it hoped Ahenakew "has come to understand the pain he has caused. We urge Mr. Ahenakew to make amends so he can be remembered for healing rather than for hurting".

($1=$1.25 Canadian)

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Rob Wilson)