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Italian university prevents French professor who denies Nazi gas chambers from giving lecture

An Italian university closed one of its campuses for one day to prevent a planned lecture by a retired French professor who denies gas chambers were used in Nazi concentration camps.

Robert Faurisson, who has been convicted five times in France for denying crimes against humanity, was expected to speak at a local hotel instead.

The University of Teramo cited security fears in announcing the closure of its campus housing the law, political sciences and communications departments. "(There is) a climate of tension which could put in danger the safety of the students," the university said in a statement.

The Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Center had urged the university to cancel the event.

"To welcome Faurisson is an embarrassment to Italian academia, offends the families of Italian martyrs who fell in fighting the scourge of fascism ... and encourages a perverse propaganda to incite a new generation to anti-Semitism and racist doctrine," the center said in a statement.

Faurisson has caused outrage in France, arguing for a decade against evidence that Nazi Germany systematically destroyed the Jews. He maintains that no gas chambers were used in Nazi concentration camps during World War II.

He had been invited to give a lecture at the university by Claudio Moffa, a professor of Asian and African history and director of a master's program in Middle East studies.

The university administration had issued an official warning to Moffa to cancel the invitation, arguing that Faurisson's qualifications were "absolutely inadequate and don't deserve academic legitimation."

Moffa had cited his right to teach freely in defending his invitation to Faurisson.

"I want to specify that I am not a denier, but I think it is fair to allow a free debate and different interpretations of historical events," Moffa wrote on his Web site.

Last year, Faurisson took part in a conference in Iran, which gathered some of the most well-known U.S. and European Holocaust deniers, to debate whether the World War II genocide of Jews took place.

The gathering touched off a firestorm of indignation across the world and particularly in Europe, where many countries have made it a crime to publicly disavow the Nazis' systematic extermination of 6 million Jews.

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