Eight months after the Islamist attack in Vienna, Austria is tightening its anti-terror laws. In the future, there will be a separate criminal offense for “religiously motivated” crimes.
On November 2, 2020, a follower of the Islamic State, who had been released from prison on parole, had shot dead four people in downtown Vienna before being killed by police.
The National Council passed the legislative package in Vienna on Wednesday. Among other things, the new regulations will allow authorities to order electronic ankle bracelets after releases on parole offenders convicted on the basis of terrorism. Monitoring of terrorist offenders is to be stepped up.
The law bans the Egyptian-founded Muslim Brotherhood by adding it to a list of organizations linked to “religiously motivated crime.”
Perpetrators may now be required to distance themselves from the social environment that contributed to their radicalization – such as radical Salafist movements and religious institutions. People convicted under one of the terrorist paragraphs of the penal code will also face revocation of citizenship in the future if they are dual nationals. In addition, they may lose their driver’s license.
Critics Call It “Controversial” Anti-Terror Law
The creation of a criminal offense for “religiously motivated” crimes was heavily criticized by opposition and judicial representatives. The president of the Austrian Association of Judges, Sabine Matejka, called it unnecessary at best to highlight the “religious motivation” behind a crime. She was worrying that other motivations, such as racist ones, were not mentioned in the offense, she told the AFP news agency.
Unsurprisingly, criticism of the new legislation also came from Islamic associations. They will be required in the new legislation to keep a directory of all the imams. Church representatives had also condemned the measure.
Muslim Brotherhood Has a Long History in Austria
The Muslim Brotherhood has a long history in Austria. It first opened an office in the city of Graz in the mid-1960s, which was used as the group’s financial hub before moving to Switzerland, where member Youssef Nada opened the al-Taqwa bank.
The al-Taqwa bank, in turn, was investigated by American and Swiss authorities shortly after 9/11 over accusations of helping to finance terrorism.
The Public Prosecutor of Graz and the Styrian Constitutional Protection Office launched a two-year investigation into the movement of funds in the city of Graz named “Operation Luxor” and drew up a list of 70 people suspected of terror links, money laundering, and financing terrorism.
A large-scale raid and arrest of suspects was scheduled for November 3rd of last year but took place on November 9th due to the Vienna terrorist attack and saw 60 addresses raided and millions of euros seized.
The new designation for the Muslim Brotherhood comes after the Austrian government has also banned the symbols of the ultranationalist Turkish Grey Wolves, the far-left Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), the Islamic State, and other extremist groups.
The move to ban the Muslim Brotherhood comes after Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, in the aftermath of the Vienna terrorist attack, promised to create a new criminal offense related to “political Islam,” saying it would allow the government to “take action against those who are not terrorists themselves, but who create the breeding ground for it.”
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