Austria: Harmless symbols of politically conservative groups are banned as part of the measures against the Islamist threat

In the course of the measures against extremism, which were supposed to be put together in the wake of the Islamist terrorist attack in Vienna, not only Islamist symbols but also the emblem of a patriotic youth movement is to be banned. Upper Austria’s deputy governor Dr. Manfred Haimbuchner ( Freedom Party of Austria) said that this action would be a mockery of the victims of the attack on November 2nd. According to the Freedom Party member, this way of dealing with Austria’s rule of law represents a security risk in its own right.Haimbuchner himself previously drafted a strict anti-terror bill.The deputy governor, who is also a lawyer, is not satisfied with that of the Turkish-Green government. “The federal government is obfuscating the problem and watering down the solution,” the head of the Upper Austrian Freedom Party said in a statement on Wednesday.The government is trying to simulate a right-wing threat equivalent to the Islamist threat.Specifically, the capitalised Greek letter “lambda” is to be banned. Since 2012, it has been used by the Identitarian movement in the course of demonstrations and actions. They have copied the symbol from the shields of the Spartans fighting the Persians at the Battle of Thermopylae as seen in the movie “300”.

Over the years, especially left-wing extremist Antifa associations did everything they could to get this youth movement, which they hated, banned. But all the trials – some of them particularly lengthy – have so far ended in acquittals. This is because the patriotic group has always acted in accordance with the rule of law, which has been confirmed several times by the courts. But the Turkish-Green government obviously does not want to deal with this, which is why the movement is to be criminalised by the amendment to the Symbol Law.Manfred Haimbuchner firmly rejects this approach of the government. For it is precisely in times like these that people need to have confidence in the rule of law and its institutions: “This chimera created at the interface of Turkish and Green party interests does not even begin to reflect the actual threat to state and society. Rather, the arbitrary extension of the law on symbols contributes to a disorientation of society and thus itself poses a security risk.” Haimbuchner accuses the government of “degrading the important fight against Islamist terror with its authoritarian fantasies and its party-political brinkmanship”.The deputy governor expresses particular incomprehension towards the Greens. They should still remember the animal rights trials in Vienna district of Neustadt, where the application of the law concerning the Mafia rightfully caused a great stir both inside and outside their party. “Why the Greens suddenly support such an instrumentalisation of the rule of law against this background is completely beyond me,” Haimbuchner said.

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