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Identitarians on trial: witness clears activists of property damage charge

Landesgericht für Strafsachen Graz / Bild: Die Tagesstimme

At the resumption of the trial of identitarian activists in Austria, the main focus was on the personal notes written by GI Austria co-leader Martin Sellner and the testimony of an intelligence officer.

The trial of 17 activists and sympathisers of the Identitarian Movement Austria (GI Austria) continued this Wednesday at the Criminal Court in the city of Graz. The activists are being charged with forming a criminal organisation, as well as incitement to hatred and damage to property.

Notes and scribbles take centre stage

The day began with the state prosecutor confronting GI Austria co-leader Martin Sellner with notes that had been obtained during a police raid on his apartment. “It is war, fighting tooth and nail, for every street, every city, every country”, read one excerpt from the notes. Sellner maintained that these were private notes and scribbles that had been stored on his PC for years, and which were never meant for publication. One more excerpt from the notes read, “Let’s take Vienna back, block by block, step by step.”

The judge noted how often Sellner had used the word “war” in his videos. He replied that he had always used it in the sense of “war of information”, and as a call for “political activism”. The GI leader emphasised repeatedly that GI Austria’s brand of activism had “always been non-violent”.

Spray chalk and 45 euros in damages

Subsequently, an employee of a painting business was called as a witness regarding the allegation of property damage committed using spray chalk in front of the Green Party’s headquarters. According to the police’s files, the cleaning costs had added up to a total of 300 euros. The witness could not explain how the costs had got this high. One of her colleagues had been able to remove the chalk without any issues. She then estimated the actual cost at 45 euros.

Intelligence officer called as witness

A high-level official from the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution and Counterterrorism (BVT), an Austrian intelligence agency, was called as the next witness. The BVT had been involved in the case since 1st March 2017 at the request of the state prosecutor. They had been tasked with referencing existing files and inspecting evidence for chargeable offences.

It was the cause of some bewilderment when the intelligence officer could not produce a reliable definition of “right-wing extremism” when asked by the defence. Regarding the investigation into GI Austria’s alleged violent tendencies, the officer stated that he couldn’t elaborate any further on that matter. Nonetheless, no evidence on any violent tendencies had been found. The judge inquired into the difference between the FPÖ (Freedom Party) and GI Austria – both used the similar terms of “population replacement”, and “the Great Replacement” in their rhetoric. The intelligence officer stated that contrary to GI Austria, the FPÖ was using these terms for political discourse (e.g. in election campaigns).

The trial continues on Thursday at 10 am and the verdict is expected before the end of July.

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