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‘Alarming’: Austria passes heavily criticised terrorism law
People lay candles after the Vienna attack. Photo: Omer Messinger / AFP
7 July 2021
Austria's National Assembly on Wednesday adopted a heavily criticised anti-terror law that was formulated in the wake of a deadly jihadist terror attack and allows for increased surveillance.
After a sympathiser of the Islamic State group (IS) group killed four people in central Vienna in November, the conservative party (OeVP) of Chancellor Sebastian Kurz pushed for new anti-terror laws.
Judges, rights groups and the opposition have criticised the legislation, passed on Wednesday for a measures in which released terror offenders would be monitored with electronic ankle bracelets.
Some have also criticised a new offence of “religiously motivated” crimes.
“Highlighting ‘religious motivation’ for crimes is unnecessary at best, but also worrisome from a fundamental rights point of view,” the president of the Austrian Judges’ Association, Sabine Matejka, told AFP Wednesday.
“It’s alarming that other motivations aren’t highlighted as well, like racism,” Matejka said.
Although the Justice Ministry did say the criticism would be “examined”, the law passed without further revisions.
The new legislation also regulates Islamic religious activity, in particular through a mandatory register of all imams, a measure criticised by representatives of the Muslim community and by church leaders.
The interior ministry was strongly criticised for having failed to monitor the Austrian gunman responsible for last November’s killings, even though they had been alerted to the danger.
The authorities knew he had been in contact with Islamist radicals from neighbouring countries, and that he had tried to buy ammunition in Slovakia.
Police finally cornered the gunman and shot him dead, ending his shooting spree in the capital.
The small nation of fewer than 9 million is home to one of the largest per capita rates of IS fighters in Europe, with about 150 individuals having returned there after either joining the Islamic State in Syria or Iraq, or attempting to.
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