The recent arrests and charging of 17 members of the Identitarian Movement Austria (IBÖ) under anti-mafia laws for forming a “criminal organization” by the far left public prosecutor in the city of Graz has been condiment as “incomprehensible” by that country’s ruling coalition partner party, the Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs (Freedom Party of Austria, FPÖ) .
Harald Stefan, FPÖ justice spokesman and member of the National Council (parliament), is the latest politician to attack the charging of the IBÖ activists. Earlier, many journalists, editors and even the justice spokesman for the far left Sozialdemokratische Partei Österreichs (Socialist Democratic Party, SPÖ), Hannes Jarolim, condemned the charges as a clear abuse of power.
The IBO activists were charged in Graz by that city’s independent public prosecutor, for forming a “criminal association” under clause §278 StGB of the country’s anti-mafia laws.
Graz, Austria’s second largest city, is notorious as a stronghold of the Kommunistische Partei Österreichs (KPÖ), and that party holds ten seats on the town council. The conservative Österreichische Volkspartei (Austrian People’s Party ÖVP), holds 19 seats, the FPÖ has 8, the crypto-communist Greens hold 5, and the SPÖ 5.
Stefan said that the decision by the Graz prosecutor was beyond his comprehension. “The actions of the Graz prosecutor is to my mind unenforceable,” Stefan said. “The activities of the Identirians seem very similar to those of organizations like Greenpeace. If that standard is to be maintained, then most likely many organizations would have to be criminally charged, and democracy cannot endure that.”
He added that his party had always been committed to using criminal law “as moderately as possible” when it came to “restrictions on freedom of expression.”
SPÖ justice spokesman Jarolim said that he considered the application of §278 StGB to the IBÖ to be an “abuse of the law” He had, he added, no liking for the Identirians, but he observed “with concern” that the prosecutors were “resorting to tools that were not created for such cases,” and that the law was aimed at the mafia.
The Identiarians have been charged in relation to incidents such as their protest occupation of the Green Party headquarters in Graz in 2016, when several members climbed onto the roof, unfurled a banner with the words “Islamization kills” and pour red paint on the building.
The public prosecutor accuses the IBÖ of inciting “hatred of Muslims.”
On their website, the Identitarian Movement’s leaders Martin Sellner and Patrick Lenart—the chief accused—rejected the allegations “in the strongest terms”. The prosecutor’s claims “contradict the always differentiated criticism” made by the IBÖ with a “strong emphasis on the differences between Muslims and Islamists,” the group said, adding that the “Islamization of Europe is not a religion, but a process that leads to a disintegration of European societies.”
The IBÖ also said that it looked forward to the coming court case “with great confidence in the rule of law” as they expect a “speedy opportunity to refute the allegations of the prosecutor, because we are sure that love of one’s homeland is not a crime.”
The IBÖ has, as part of the “investigations,” had all its finances seized, and has launched an appeal for funds to help defend the organization. So far they have raised $31,970.00 of their $50,000.00 goal. Details can be found here.