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Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel says he is merely a human-rights fighter concerned with helping the German people.

"I am known as the Gandhi of the right," the 64-year-old said yesterday at an immigration hearing. "What I defend with all my heart is my ethnic group."

Mr. Zundel denied an allegation by a Canadian Security Intelligence Service official that he is a white supremacist.

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"I am not," Mr. Zundel told Immigration and Refugee Board member Robert Murrant.

Mr. Murrant will decide whether he should be released from the Niagara Detention Centre in Thorold, Ont., until his refugee claim is decided.

A Canadian resident for about 40 years until 2001, the German-born Mr. Zundel has been seeking refugee status since U.S. authorities returned him to Canada for overstaying a visitor's visa.

He has been in the detention centre since Feb. 19.

If deported to Germany, he would face charges of suspicion of incitement of hate. The charges stem from material on his Web site that denies the killing of six million Jews by the Nazis during the Second World War took place.

"There is no evidence. I have never supported white supremacy," he testified. "I am a German-Canadian human-rights activist."

About 20 supporters attended the hearing, including a Mississauga woman who testified she would post her home as bail and a Toronto man who said Mr. Zundel could live with him if he's freed.

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Federal government lawyers are arguing Mr. Zundel shouldn't be released because the government is taking necessary steps to inquire into a reasonable suspicion that he is inadmissible on grounds of national security.

CSIS official Dave Stewart testified that Mr. Zundel can be considered a white-supremacist leader. "Mr. Zundel is a lightning rod for individuals who believe in the neo-Nazi white-supremacist philosophy. He sows the seeds, and other people build on that."

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