Three men appeared in court in New Zealand and were charged with damaging more than 20 Jewish gravestones in an historic cemetery last week.
The men, aged between 19 and 23, were charged with willful damage of the graves in Auckland, some of which date back to the 1880s.
The vandalism included spray painting swastikas and the number 88 – code for “Heil Hitler,” as well as graffiti including “F***| Israel.” It carries a maximum penalty of seven years.
The three men were ordered to reappear in Auckland District Court next month and received bail on condition they do not associate with each other and do not visit any Jewish cemetery, synagogue or school.
One of them, Nathan Symington, accused police of a “witch-hunt” and said although he was a “small-time criminal” he was no racist and he’d fight the charge “to the bitter end.”
The names of the other two were suppressed by the court.
The attack drew a chorus of condemnation from Jewish officials, Israel’s ambassador, inter-faith leaders and New Zealand’s Prime Minister John Key, whose mother escaped Nazism by fleeing Vienna, Austria on the eve of the Holocaust.