Landesgericht für Strafsachen Graz / Bild: Die Tagesstimme
On Tuesday, the trial of 17 activists and sympathisers of the identitarian movement in Austria (GI Austria) continued at the Criminal Court in Graz. They are being charged with “forming a criminal organisation”, incitement to hatred and property damage, as well as one count of coercion.
On the fourth day of the trial, the court completed the cross-examination of the remaining defendants. The first defendant to be questioned this morning was a man from the region of Carinthia who had been involved in both the action at Klagenfurt University as well as the one at the Green Party headquarters in Graz.
He stated that he had first learned about the identitarian movement on Facebook. For the action in Graz, he’d brought theatrical fake blood and zip ties up to the roof in his backpack, helped to unroll the banner, and dispersed the fake blood across it. He had not known the text on the banner and the contents of the accompanying speech until the event.
The phrase “Islamisation kills” on the banner was said to be a criticism of radical, political Islam and of the open borders policy. The action was not directed against Muslims or against Islam as a religion, the defendant emphasised.
Regarding the action in Klagenfurt, the man said that the core message of the symbolic stoning of an “Austrian patriot” was to highlight how patriots were being affected by mass immigration and Islamisation. Patriots were being excluded from media reporting and any criticism of this was not accepted.
After the action, he said he had left the lecture hall straight away and as such had not witnessed any altercation with the principal of the university.
Next to take the stand was a mature student from the city of Graz. He justified his involvement with GI Austria by stating his wish to “improve the freedom of expression in Austria”.
He had heard of the action in Graz only a few days prior to the event. The Green Party’s headquarters was chosen because the party had been a driving force behind the “open borders policy” and was a “supporter of mass immigration”. The “uncontrolled mass immigration” would then amplify “creeping Islamisation”, the 33-year-old said. The phrase “Islamisation kills” was designed to mimic common phases used in political protest (Editor’s note: e.g. “borders kill”, “racism kills”, etc).
According to his testimony, he had become less involved in GI Austria after the action because of his age and because of his studies, and he had not participated in any other action since.
The next of the defendants, also a student, had learned of GI Austria in 2015 while he was stationed at the border town of Spielfeld while doing military service. At that time, the number of migrants crossing the border was so high that no identity checks were being carried out. After a protest by GI Austria in Spielfeld he had done some research about them and their ideas. Up until the action at Klagenfurt University, he had only occasionally been going to meetings.
A few days before the action he’d got a message about it on Whatsapp which contained only very basic information. His job had been to keep the door to the lecture hall open so that people could leave early in case of a commotion, the defendant told the court.
The accused also stated that he had seen a man wearing a jacket entering the lecture hall. This man had loudly demanded the activists leave the hall, pulled out his phone, and grabbed the defendant by his T-shirt. Then, the GI activists had left the hall and he was pushed, which caused him to lose his balance and fly into the door. During the course of all this, the principal of the university had torn his shirt.
The next two defendants were also questioned about the action at Klagenfurt University. They both testified they had been notified of the action via Whatsapp.
The last to speak before the court was another founding member of GI Austria, who had been the regional leader for the Salzburg section. His responsibilities had been organising meetings and information stands, applying for permission to carry out public demonstrations as well as procuring materials. He had not been involved in the actions in Graz and Klagenfurt.
On the topic of stickers, the regional leader testified that stickers had only been distributed at meetings in Salzburg in “small doses” and for “private use”. Nevertheless, the defendant emphasised that they had always maintained that property damage should be avoided.
Now that the court has finished the hearing the defendants earlier than expected, the trial is set to continue on Wednesday next week, when more witnesses are expected to appear.