Vienna, Austria Right-wing British historian David Irving was sentenced to three years in prison Monday after admitting to an Austrian court that he denied the Holocaust - a crime in the country where Hitler was born.
Irving, who pleaded guilty and then insisted during his one-day trial that he now acknowledged the Nazis' World War II slaughter of 6 million Jews, had faced up to 10 years behind bars. Before the verdict, Irving conceded he had erred in contending there were no gas chambers at the Auschwitz concentration camp.
"I made a mistake when I said there were no gas chambers at Auschwitz," Irving testified, at one point expressing sorrow "for all the innocent people who died during the Second World War."
Irving, stressing he only relied on primary sources, said he came across new information in the early 1990's from top Nazi officials - including personal documents belonging to Adolf Eichmann - that led him to rethink certain previous assertions.
But despite his apparent epiphany, Irving, 67, maintained he had never questioned the Holocaust.
"I've never been a Holocaust denier and I get very angry when I'm called a Holocaust denier," he said.
Irving's lawyer said he would appeal the sentence.
State prosecutor Michael Klackl declined to comment on the verdict. In his closing arguments, however, he criticized Irving for "putting on a show" and for not admitting that the Nazis killed Jews in an organized and systematic manner.
Irving appeared shocked as the sentence was read out. Moments later, an elderly man identifying himself as a family friend called out "Stay strong, David! Stay strong!" before he was escorted from the courtroom.
Irving has been in custody since his November arrest on charges stemming from two speeches he gave in Austria in 1989 in which he was accused of denying the Nazis' extermination of 6 million Jews.
Irving, handcuffed and wearing a navy blue suit, arrived at the court carrying one of his most controversial books - "Hitler's War," which challenges the extent of the Holocaust.
Irving's trial was held amid new - and fierce - debate over freedom of expression in Europe, where the printing and reprinting of unflattering cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad has triggered violent protests worldwide.
"Of course it's a question of freedom of speech," Irving said. "The law is an ass."
The court convicted Irving after his guilty plea under the 1992 law, which applies to "whoever denies, grossly plays down, approves or tries to excuse the National Socialist genocide or other National Socialist crimes against humanity in a print publication, in broadcast or other media."