Breaking: Austria rises against terrorism, bans Islamist organizations led by Brotherhood and ISIS
Austria’s parliament on Thursday, July 8, decided on a new anti-terror package, a federal law that prohibits the use of symbols by ISIS and other groups (the Symbols Law), which includes changes in the Criminal Code, the Code of Criminal Procedure and Symbols, and the Citizenship Law.
The decision was taken unanimously in part related to the revocation of the driver's license of persons convicted of a terrorist offense and putting an ankle bracelet on persons released from cases related to a religious background or right-wing extremism, while the penalties amount to withdrawing the nationality of those who hold another nationality.
By a large majority, MPs also approved new regulations on home offices and job postings in the public service.
Austrian Interior Minister Karl Nehammer said that in order to protect Muslims in Austria, a strong law on Islam is needed because political Islamism faults society and coexistence, making it necessary to implement and tighten measures.
The minister noted the need to be particularly vigilant about radical Islamist terrorism, but also about right-wing extremist terrorism, adding that the infringement of the freedom of a few is a necessary step to secure the right of freedom and security for the majority.
Nehammer stressed that it is important as a society to take precautions so that no new attacks occur. The law will include conclusions from the commission formed immediately after the terrorist attack in Vienna.
Green Party MP Georg Bürstmayr said that the package is about confronting terrorism strictly within the framework of the constitution and basic rights and not allowing the division of society, stressing that the Islamic religion is a part of the country.
MP Agnes Sirkka Prammer, also of the Green Party, identified three key elements of the commission's report after the terrorist attack in Vienna last February. In addition to reorganizing the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution and Counterterrorism (BVT), the goal is to connect institutions and secure and fund deradicalization.
Organizations to which the law has been applied
The new federal law regulates the prohibition of the use of symbols for the following organizations:
1 - ISIS
2 - Al-Qaeda
4. Grey Wolves
5. Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK)
7. Hezbollah’s military wing
8. Other groups included as part of legal acts of the European Union as terrorist groups, companies or other organizations.
9- Croatian Ustaša group
10. Any groups that are sub-organizations, successors, or affiliates of the aforementioned groups.
Anti-terrorism package with anti-terrorism law
The government's draft Anti-Terrorism Law, which includes changes in various issues as part of the current anti-terrorism package in the field of justice, focuses in particular on judicial monitoring of terrorist offenders during execution and after parole, as well as using electronic monitoring directives, to intensify and improve prevention and de-radicalization measures.
In addition, money laundering and terrorist financing must be combated more efficiently. In order to implement the EU directive on combating money laundering under criminal law, the offense of money laundering must be reformulated and a new aggravating factor must be introduced in the criminal penal code.
The law stresses the need to work on case conferences to evaluate the behavior of violators of the law during judicial supervision, to determine measures to ensure compliance with the instructions, and to prevent the convicted person from committing criminal acts. In order to accumulate specialized knowledge within the courts, special departments for procedures related to terrorist offenses will be established.
With the amendment of this proposal, provisions have been put into effect in relation to the deadline for the Money Laundering Directive.
Included in the ban
It is prohibited to display, carry or distribute the symbols of any of the aforementioned groups in public places, including electronic means of communication. Badges, emblems and gestures are also considered symbols.
Anyone who intentionally violates any of the prohibitions has committed an executive offense and will be sentenced with a fine of up to €4,000 or imprisonment up to one month. Anyone who has already been punished once under this provision is liable to a fine of up to €10,000 or imprisonment for up to six weeks.
Ordinances based on this Federal Law may be issued from the day following its promulgation and will take effect as soon as possible.
This stance against terrorism came eight months after the attack in Vienna on November 2, 2020, in which a 20-year-old ISIS supporter, after his conditional release, shot people in downtown Vienna, using a rifle and a pistol to shoot people in the capital’s famous nightlife district, the Bermuda Triangle, which resulted in the deaths of four people. The perpetrator was shot and killed by the police.
Austria then sought to tighten its anti-terrorism laws. In the future, it will consider religiously motivated crimes as a separate offense.
On Wednesday, the parliament in Vienna acknowledged that parolees could be required to wear an electronic wristband to tighten surveillance of them and their movements, as monitoring of terrorist offenders during prison and after parole must be intensified.
The Federal Prosecutor's Office also announced on Wednesday that, according to investigations, two young Islamists, one German and one Kosovar, respectively from Osnabrück and Kassel, may have known that the Vienna attacker, Kujtim Fejzulai, was planning an attack and did not report it, but instead “accepted his action with consent.” Both of them “also follow an extremist Islamist stance and were in close contact with Kujtim via social media for a long time prior to the attack,” although they later tried to hide their relationship with him. Their apartments were searched, but no one was arrested.
Even before the attack in Vienna, Islamists in Germany were said to have begun deleting their communications with the attacker on their mobile phones and social media profiles, according to findings from the German Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA). It is therefore suspected that the men were not only friends of the Vienna bomber, but also possibly close accomplices of his.
Austria is trying to deter terrorism and terrorists by creating laws that penalize radical Salafist movements and religious institutions in which people convicted under one of the terrorism provisions of the Penal Code are also threatened with revocation of their citizenship if they are dual nationals.
Therefore, the parliaments of Europe have already begun to rise up against the Brotherhood. Representatives in Germany, Austria and France warned of the danger posed by the terrorist organization to freedom and democracy, and they called for banning all the activities of these illegal parties, which pose a threat to European security.
This came after increasing international demands, whether from countries, organizations, politicians, deputies, or research centers such as the Paris-based Center for Middle Eastern Studies (CEMO). Dr. Abdelrehim Ali, head of CEMO, revealed that Brotherhood cells are present in countries around the world, especially in Europe, adding that they represent a danger to international peace and security.
In recent months, the Austrian authorities already closed many centers belonging to the Brotherhood and other Islamist organizations that pose a threat to public security.
The government closely monitors the Brotherhood's activity inside the country and has placed restrictions on the movement of its members, as well as closing several mosques and institutions suspected of financing terrorism and spreading extremist ideas.