Bild: Facebook Identitäre Bewegung Österreich / Logo „Der Prozess: Die Tagesstimmte / Collage: Die Tagesstimme
Since Wednesday morning, 17 activists and sympathizers of the Identitarian Movement Austria (henceforth „IBÖ“) are on trial and have to testify in court. In the opening statement the state prosecutor accused the activists of „forming a criminal organization“ under §278 of the Austrian Criminal code; following up with sedition, damage of property, as well as coercion in one case.
The prosecution opined that the IBÖ is „inciting hatred against certain groups“ with their activism and degrading the public reputation of migrants and Muslims. Also, they hinted at the „well organized“ and „strictly hierarchical“ structure of leadership of the identitarians, which is stratified by nation, state and district.
Besides their activism, the IBÖ ist said to have sold merchandise. From 2015 on they had allegedly radicalized themselves.
During the trial the focus will be especially on the happenings on the rooftops of the Greens Party office in Graz and the Turkish embassy in Vienna, as well as the action inside an auditorium of the University of Klagenfurt. In 2016, identitarian activists in Graz had unrolled a banner reading „islamization kills“ on the rooftop of the Greens party office and doused it with red food dye. On top of the Turkish embassy they later dropped a banner reading „Erdogan, take your Turks back home!“. At the university in Klagenfurt, a lecture was interrupted by activists carrying a banner and a megaphone.. Multiple participants of the interrupting party were dressed in full Islamic veil (Burqua).
One more case of concern to the trial was in eastern Styria, where the stickers that had allegedly been applied by identitarian activists to the doors of two restaurant, whose owners happen to be of Turkish origin.
„We’ve been looking the other way for far too long with all this hate speech“, the prosecution declared in their opening statement.
Following the prosecution, the IBÖ’s defense attorney denied all the allegations, pointing towards the „noble value of free speech“. The wording „islamization kills“ on the banner is a necessary emphasis for protest and objection. The Pope himself which had used the wording „economy kills“, the attorney noted. To conclude then that the IBÖ wants to claim that every Muslim is a murderer, is simply wrong.
Also, for the action at the Turkish embassy, the defense objected that the phrase „Erdogan, take your Turks back home!“, was not directed against all Turks, but against the Turkish premier minister Recep Tayip Erdoğan. Politicians like Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, or Efgani Dönmez had already voiced similar opinions. „The accusation of hatred is completely unhinged“, the defense criticized.
Furthermore, the the burkas that were used during the action at the university in Klagenfurt were simply a symbol of political Islam..
The claim of property damage was also met with staunch disagreement by the defense. To the prosecution’s notion that paint and sprayable chalk were found in the possession of some identitarians, the defense countered that „he better now prosecute little girls playing hopscotch in the street for having formed a criminal organization“.
It is then the opinion of the defense that the trial’s main purpose is to silence the Identitarian Movement in Austria and to ruin them financially.
As the first of the accused, founding member and co-leader of the Identitarian Movement Austria, Martin Sellner, appeared before the judge for questioning. He went on to elaborate on the forming of the group and their aims, emphasizing, that they had always „acted nonviolently“. It is the declared purpose of the Identitarian Movement Austria, to facilitate an „honest and fear-free“ climate of debate, and to carry patriotism into society. As example for their activism, Sellner named the environmentalist organization Greenpeace.
Another topic was Sellner’s political past and his connection to the society around Gottfried Küssel. The co-leader of the movement Austria confirmed having had contacts to this scene in his youth, noted however, that no ties remain from that time.
Sellner claims, that the Identitarian Movement in Austria has around 300 activists that participate in actions and events. Adding to that, there were hundreds of financial backers.
The next court days are: 6th July, 9th–12th July, 16th–20th July, 23rd–27th July, 30th–31st July, with each court date going from 9AM to 3PM.