Second day of the trial sees the further questioning of members, including Martin Sellner and Patrick Lenart.
Landesgericht für Strafsachen Graz. Bild: Die Tagesstimme
Friday morning, the trial of 17 Austria (IBÖ) Identitarian activists and sympathizers continued.
The state prosecutor, continuing from Wednesday his questioning of Martin Sellner, accused Sellner of internet “trolling” in an effort to “incite hatred”. Sellner, co-leader of IBÖ, however, remarked that these were merely “playful comments” on the net and were a harmeless way of expressing criticism. He further clarified that he “did not tolerate incitement of hatred”, quickly removing any genuinely hateful comments by others in the comments section of his videos.
The prosecutor then returned to the matter of the Turkish embassy roof action, in which the activists unfolded the banner: “Erdogan, take your Turks back home!” It was argued that this wording included all Turks. Sellner denied this, stating that this was solely directed at Erdogan himself and his supporters.
Next, the questioning of the co-leader, Patrick Lenart, commenced on his role as chairman and treasurer of Identitäre Bewegung Österreich, planning regular public meetings, events, and actions. On his motivations to form IBÖ, he elaborated: “I am a patriot and I want to help my country in a way that exceeds the mere act of voting”. The IBÖ he sees as the “ideal area of activity” for this.
On the aims of the Identitarian movement, he said that through lawful, peaceful activism, they were raising awareness and opening debate for problems like mass immigration, and stated that “committing no crimes” is a top priority for the group.
On the banner action at the Turkish Embassy, Lenart, reiterating Sellner, emphasised that they had been addressing not all Turks but only Erdogan’s supporters. Furthermore, IBÖ were not, as claimed, responsible for any criminal damage: they did not break the box holding the roof keys, he said, as it was not actually locked. The matter of one roof shingle being damaged, he could not explain. However, he confidently ruled out any intentional damage, as they were moving across the roof with great care, due to the height.
The rental of a storage container for IBÖ property in the city of Tulln was confirmed. Here the police had found sprayable chalk, stencils, paint, pyrotechnic flares, as well as stickers. Lenhart held that the paint was used exclusively to paint banners, and the chalk there had not been used at all. The stickers were given away at public meetings, but always with the clear request to be mindful of other’s property.
Next was the only female member to face questioning, who was accused of property damage with spray chalk at the Green Party headquarters. According to her, she was at the action but only held a banner. The spray chalk had only been used to conceal tattoos on her hand.
She explained that she had been told of the action a day earlier at a public meeting, where the action was advertised as “street theatre”. Until shortly before it started, she had received no details about it.
According to her, Identitarian topics like mass immigration were important to her because she had had negative first-hand experience, witnessing sexual harassment by ‘asylum seekers’ in a pub in the town of Voitsberg. The prosecution replied that she should bring this matter to the police, which she eagerly confirmed.
Finally, on this second day of the trial, Lenart returned to speak. The student of philosophy said he had co-founded the organisation because back then, a patriot was always attacked, verbally and physically, for his position. Examples he gave were the shattering of windows at an activist’s apartment and the arson attack on Martin Sellner’s car. Lenart told how he himself had lost his employment when they held an event at Votivkirche, after far left activists and even politicians directly pressured his employer into letting him go.
The main goal of the Identitarian movement Austria, he stated, was the “preservation of our ethnocultural identity”, with activism directed at highlighting negative social developments; criticism was never directed against persons or groups, but solely against ideas and politics.
The phrase “Islamisation kills” on the Green Party headquarters banner, he explained, were akin to other group slogans, such as “borders kill” or “racism kills”, which were used to promote the group’s respective agendas.
For the action at Klagenfurt University, Lenhart detailed that they had selected the lecture because it promoted multiculturalism without “leaving room for critical opinions”. With their action, they had wanted to show how the politics of multiculturalism leads to parallel societies, which were the prime hotbed for radical, political Islam.
Upon the prosecutor’s question as to why they had not just joined the lecture in the normal way to enter a debate, Lenart answered that their point was not “personal”, but it was “systemic criticism” they were after. For that reason they had chosen this form of activism.
In response to the accusation of razorblades hidden under stickers, Lenart said that he assumed this to be a “false flag”, and that it was extremely unlikely that these were placed by an IBÖ sympathizer, since such things could only ever hurt the movement. The immediate reaction of IBÖ was to denounce this type of occurrence.
The trial is set to continue on Monday.