"A Black Day for Austria"
An Austrian appellate court has upheld the conviction of Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff, a Viennese housewife and anti-Jihad activist, for "denigrating religious beliefs" after giving a series of seminars about the dangers of radical Islam.
The December 20 ruling shows that while Judaism and Christianity can be disparaged with impunity in postmodern multicultural Austria, speaking the truth about Islam is subject to swift and hefty legal penalties.
Although the case has major implications for freedom of speech in Austria, as well as in Europe as a whole, it has received virtually no press coverage in the American mainstream media.
Sabaditsch-Wolff's Kafkaesque legal problems began in November 2009, when she presented a three-part seminar about Islam to the Freedom Education Institute, a political academy linked to the Austrian Freedom Party.
A glossy socialist weekly magazine, NEWS -- all in capital letters -- planted a journalist in the audience to secretly record the first two lectures. Lawyers for the leftwing publication then handed the transcripts over to the Viennese public prosecutor's office as evidence of hate speech against Islam, according to Section 283 of the Austrian Criminal Code (Strafgesetzbuch, StGB). Formal charges against Sabaditsch-Wolff were filed in September 2010; and her bench trial, presided on by one multicultural judge and no jury, began November 23, 2010.
On the first day of the trial, however, it quickly became clear that the case against Sabaditsch-Wolff was not as air-tight as prosecutors had made it out to be. The judge in the case, Bettina Neubauer, pointed out, for example, that only 30 minutes of the first seminar had actually been recorded.
Neubauer also noted that some of the statements attributed to Sabaditsch-Wolff were offhand comments made during breaks and not a formal part of the seminar. Moreover, only a few people heard these comments, not 30 or more -- the criterion under Austrian law for a statement being "public." In any event, Sabaditsch-Wolff says her comments were not made in a public forum because the seminars were held for a select group of people who had registered beforehand.
More importantly, many of the statements attributed to Sabaditsch-Wolff were actually quotes she made directly from the Koran and other Islamic religious texts. Fearing that the show trial would end in a mistrial, the judge abruptly suspended hearings until January 18, 2011, ostensibly to give him time to review the tape recordings, but also to give the prosecution more time to shore up its case.
On January 18, after realizing that the original charge would not hold up, the judge -- not the prosecutor -- informed Sabaditsch-Wolff that in addition to the initial charge of hate speech, she was now being charged with "denigrating religious symbols of a recognized religious group." Sabaditsch-Wolff's lawyer immediately demanded that the trial be postponed so that the defense could prepare a new strategy.
When the trial resumed on February 15, 2011, Sabaditsch-Wolff was exonerated of the first charge of "incitement" because the court found that here statements were not made in a "provocative" manner.
But Sabaditsch-Wolff was convicted of the second charge against her, namely "denigration of religious beliefs of a legally recognized religion," according to Section 188 of the Austrian Criminal Code.
The judge ruled that Sabaditsch-Wolff committed a crime by stating in her seminars about Islam that the Islamic prophet Mohammed was a pedophile (Sabaditsch-Wolff's actual words were "Mohammed had a thing for little girls.")
The judge rationalized that Mohammed's sexual contact with nine-year-old Aisha could not be considered pedophilia because Mohammed continued his marriage to Aisha until his death. According to this line of thinking, Mohammed had no exclusive desire for underage girls; he was also attracted to older females because Aisha was 18 years old when Mohammed died.
The judge ordered Sabaditsch-Wolff to pay a fine of €480 ($625) or an alternative sentence of 60 days in prison. Moreover, she was required to pay the costs of the trial. Although at first glance the fine may appear trivial -- the fine was reduced to 120 "day rates" of €4 each because Sabaditsch-Wolff is a housewife with no income -- the actual fine would have been far higher if she had had income.
Sabaditsch-Wolff appealed the conviction to the Provincial Appellate Court (Oberlandesgericht Wien) in Vienna, but that appeal was rejected on December 20. The court says she will go to prison if the fine is not paid within the next six months. She says she will take the case to the Strasbourg-based European Court for Human Rights.
After the trial, Sabaditsch-Wolff said her conviction represented "a black day for Austria." The Vienna Federation of Academics (Wiener Akademikerbund) said the ruling represented "politically and sentimentally motivated justice" and marked "the end of freedom of expression in Austria."
Sabaditsch-Wolff is not the only Austrian to run afoul of the country's anti-free speech laws. In January 2009, Susanne Winter, an Austrian politician and Member of Parliament, was convicted for the "crime" of saying that "in today's system" the Mohammed would be considered a "child molester," referring to his marriage to Aisha. Winter was also convicted of "incitement" for saying that Austria faces an "Islamic immigration tsunami." Winters was ordered to pay a fine of €24,000 ($31,000), and received a suspended three-month prison sentence.
Reader comments on this item
|A worrying case but... [44 words]||Dennis||Oct 19, 2012 16:39|
|Aesop language [118 words]||Ephraim||Jan 3, 2012 19:49|
|Islam [72 words]||Lechatboote||Jan 3, 2012 18:18|
|Islam is an Idea [58 words]||Ray Cathode||Jan 3, 2012 16:30|
|Sad, very sad [36 words]||Missy T.||Jan 3, 2012 15:36|
|What are the Austrian Legal Boundaries, if Any? [234 words]||Daniel||Jan 3, 2012 15:23|
|Abuse against freedom of speech [20 words]||David Hartman||Jan 3, 2012 14:02|
|Austria - the best friend I have in the whole world. [73 words]||Chris Vyas||Jan 2, 2012 03:09|
|↔ Austria and the Corrupt [158 words]||Eric Price||Jan 18, 2013 05:34|
|Clarification of the court's ruling [51 words]||Andreas Moser||Jan 1, 2012 12:11|
|"A Black Day for Austria" [90 words]||Traveller||Dec 31, 2011 21:05|
|SHAME ON AUSTRIA! [69 words]||C.J.||Dec 30, 2011 20:58|
|Legal precedent [22 words]||JO||Dec 30, 2011 17:17|
|A modern Western nation thwarting freedom of speech [20 words]||David R. Matteson, PhD||Dec 28, 2011 14:51|
|The European route [233 words]||Nick||Dec 27, 2011 04:09|
|Is the Koran guilty of disparaging religion? [33 words]||Lord Garth||Dec 26, 2011 17:58|
|Nothing changes but the names. [76 words]||Ron Doppel||Dec 26, 2011 16:11|
|Disappointing day; more info. [32 words]||Henrik R. Clausen||Dec 26, 2011 12:10|
|From Extreme Right to (almost) Extreme Left [188 words]||Eric Price||Dec 26, 2011 09:16|
Comment on this item
by Louis René Beres
Jihadi violence serves not only to advance the terrorist's delusion of immortality, but also to add, however perversely, an apparent and desperately needed erotic satisfaction, using religion as the justification.
Persuasive promises of immortality -- the desperate hope to live forever -- underlie virtually all major religions.
Washington and Jerusalem should finally address what needs to be done in addition to military remediation -- reinforcing efforts to convince these terrorists that their expected martyrdom is ultimately just an elaborate fiction.
by Gill Gillespie and Shabnam Assadollahi
The aim of the current Iranian regime is clearly to acquire a nuclear weapons capability and to retain as much territory in Iraq as possible under Shia Islamist rule, whatever the human cost. Those aims are also the reason Iran's regime is now trying to intervene in Iraq.
Iran will doubtless be demanding that any cooperation with the West be compensated for by "concessions" permitting its nuclear weapons program.
Involving Iran in Iraq at this point will merely alienate any Sunni allies whose assistance is much needed to defeat IS.
Many people inside Iran have alerted the U.S. Administration for over two years about other industrial facilities being secretly built in Iran and not declared to the International Atomic Energy. So far, all intelligence from within Iran has been wilfully ignored by the Obama Administration.
by Burak Bekdil
The Turkish government "frankly worked" with the al-Nusrah Front, the al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, along with other terrorist groups.
The Financial Task Force, an international body setting the standards for combating terrorist financing, ruled that Turkey should remain in its "gray list."
While NATO wishes to reinforce its outreach to democracies such as Australia and Japan, Turkey is trying to forge wider partnerships with the Arab world, Russia, China, Central Asia, China, Africa and -- and with a bunch of terrorist organizations, including Hamas, Muslim Brotherhood, Ahrar al-Sham and the al-Nusrah Front.
Being NATO's only Muslim member was fine. Being NATO's only Islamist member ideologically attached to the Muslim Brotherhood is quite another thing.
by Samuel Westrop
British politicians seem to be trapped in an endless debate over how to curb both violent and non-violent extremism within the Muslim community.
A truly useful measure might be to end the provision of state funding and legitimacy to terror-linked extremist charities.
by Soeren Kern
"My son and I love life with the beheaders." — British jihadist Sally Jones.
Mujahidah Bint Usama published pictures of herself on Twitter holding a severed head while wearing a white doctor's jacket; alongside it, the message: "Dream job, a terrorist doc."
British female jihadists are now in charge of guarding as many as 3,000 non-Muslim Iraqi women and girls held captive as sex slaves.
"The British women are some of the most zealous in imposing the IS laws in the region. I believe that's why at least four of them have been chosen to join the women police force." — British terrorism analyst Melanie Smith.