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Page last updated at 17:26 GMT, Thursday, 11 March 2010

Sweden to extradite Auschwitz sign theft suspect

Arbeit Macht Frei sign
Many people passed under the sign to their deaths

A court in Stockholm has ruled that a Swedish man can be extradited to Poland to face trial over the theft of a sign from the Auschwitz death camp.

Investigators accuse Anders Hogstrom, 34, of instigating the theft of the infamous Arbeit Macht Frei sign from the camp gates last December.

The sign was recovered shortly afterwards, cut into three pieces.

Mr Hogstrom, a former neo-Nazi leader, denies the claims and is likely to appeal, his lawyer said.

He has three weeks to appeal, and if unsuccessful "the authorities have to come and get him and they have 10 days to do so", Swedish prosecutor Agneta Hilding Qvarnstrom said.

The Stockholm district court said Mr Hogstrom could be extradited, on the condition that, if convicted, he would serve any prison sentence in Sweden, a demand Polish prosecutors have agreed to.

Mr Hogstrom, who was arrested in February, said he was only acting as an intermediary who had been contacted to sell the sign, and that he got in touch with the Polish authorities when he realised it had been stolen.

"I have [in] no way committed a crime. On the contrary. I have made sure that this sign could be returned," he is quoted as saying by the Associated Press news agency.

Mr Hogstrom helped found the far-right National Socialist Front in 1994, but later left the organisation.

Outrage

Five Polish men have already been arrested over the theft.

The sign, weighing 40kg (90lb), was half-unscrewed, half-torn from above the death camp's gate.

The 5m (16ft) wrought iron sign - the words on which translate as "Work sets you free" - symbolises for many the atrocities of Nazi Germany.

A replica of the sign, which is being repaired, now sits on top of the entrance gate at Auschwitz and might remain there permanently as the original could be too fragile to withstand weather conditions, officials told the Reuters news agency.

The theft caused outrage in Israel, Poland and around the world. More than a million people - 90% of them Jews - were murdered by the Nazis at Auschwitz in occupied Poland during World War II.



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SEE ALSO
Swede held over Auschwitz theft
11 Feb 10 |  Europe
Arrest bid over Auschwitz theft
02 Feb 10 |  Europe
Holocaust Day marked at Auschwitz
27 Jan 10 |  Europe
Auschwitz entrance sign returned
21 Jan 10 |  Europe
Poland police want to quiz Swedes
06 Jan 10 |  Europe
Auschwitz theft 'ordered abroad'
22 Dec 09 |  Europe
Auschwitz death camp sign stolen
18 Dec 09 |  Europe

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