Political Islam to be designated a crime in Austria

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Political Islam will be criminalized in Austria. Terrorist suspects might be sent to preventive detention and deprived of their citizenship. These are just some of the points proposed by the Austrian government on Wednesday in response to the recent terrorist attack in Vienna.

Ten days ago, a 20-year-old radical shot and killed four people in the center of Vienna and injured more than 20 before the police shot him dead. The attacker had been convicted of terrorism in the past. Counterintelligence knew he was in contact with radicals in Vienna and that he had tried to buy ammunition in Bratislava, too.

Nevertheless, the police stopped watching him and did not prevent the attack. The Austrian government has therefore decided, unlike other European countries, to intervene quickly and harshly and to proceed with a series of amendments to anti-terrorism laws.

The Austrian government’s new measures are now aimed precisely at people who might be willing to engage in political violence or terrorist acts as well as at political Islam, which is supposed to be a crime itself. The law should also affect a wide range of adherents who do not resort to terrorism but provide terrorists with background or spiritual support and advocacy.

In the future, released radicals should be preventively monitored at home as well with the help of electronic devices. People prosecuted for terrorist acts might also be placed in special preventive detention, plus it will be possible to send those who have already served their sentences for terrorism but are still considered radical and dangerous to preventive detention as well.

Additional points of the legislative package include the possibility of stripping people convicted of acts connected to terrorism of their Austrian citizenship. Other laws, including on the possession of weapons, will be amended to “effectively combat religiously motivated political extremism.”

It should be easier to close extremist associations or facilities involved in terrorist propaganda. The authorities should have a list of imams and will be able to cut off financial flows to Muslim organizations from abroad in the future.

Meanwhile, politicians in Vienna continue to debate possible failures of the authorities preceding the November 2 killings. The opposition Liberal Party NEOS proposed the establishment of a parliamentary commission of inquiry. “We want an end to this cover-up,” said defense expert Douglas Hoyos. He complained that only things uncovered by journalists and the opposition came to the surface. According to him, the previously announced commission of inquiry set up by the government cannot be independent.

Title image: Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz delivers his speech during an online conference with French President Emmanuel Macron, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2020. (AP Photo/Michel Euler, Pool)

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