Case dropped against second Swiss man over Vienna attack ‘links’

Swiss prosecutors said Thursday they had dropped the case against a second Swiss man over alleged links to a deadly shooting rampage in Vienna due to a lack of evidence.

Armed police officers stand guard before the arrival of Austrian Chancellor Kurz and President of the European Council to pay respects to the victims of the recent terrorist attack in Vienna, Austria on November 9,2020. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)
Armed police officers stand guard by the area where the terrorist attack took place in Vienna, Austria on November, 2020. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

The Office of the Attorney General (OAG), which last month decided to drop the case against one suspect, told AFP it had issued a discontinuation order in the case against a second man.

On November 2, 2020, convicted Islamic State sympathiser Kujtim Fejzulai killed four people in Vienna before being shot dead by police.

It was the first major attack in Austria in decades and the first blamed on a jihadist.

Two Swiss citizens who knew Fejzulai were arrested in the northeastern Swiss town of Winterthur just a day after the attack on suspicion they may have helped in its preparation.

‘How was it possible?’ Austrians left asking painful questions after Vienna terror shootings

The two, who were aged 18 and 24 at the time, were known to the police and were the targets of prior criminal cases over terror-linked offences.

The OAG acknowledged Thursday that no evidence had emerged that either man had participated in any way or had prior knowledge of the attack.

The older of the two men was meanwhile hit with a penalty in a separate case with no links to the Vienna file, the OAG said.

The penalty order, seen by Swiss media, indicated that he had been found guilty of violating Switzerland’s law banning Al-Qaeda, Islamic State and related organisations and of being in possession of “depictions of violence”.

According to the ATS news agency, an IS group video was found on his phone depicting people being executed and decapitated.

He was handed a six-month suspended prison sentence, a fine of 1,000 Swiss francs ($1,100, 950 euros), and three years’ probation, ATS said.

ANALYSIS: Vienna terror attack was ‘only a matter of time’

In light of this penalty, he would not be compensated for the 176 days he spent behind bars after his arrest following the Vienna attack, it added.

The OAG said a separate case was still pending against the younger of the two men, also on suspicion he breached the Swiss law banning Al-Qaeda, IS and related organisations, and over “allegations of depictions of violence”. “The presumption of innocence applies,” it stressed.

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Muslims and black people discriminated against in Austria, new report reveals

Austrian anti-racism NGO Zara released its Racism Report 2022, documenting discrimination cases in the Alpine country.

Muslims and black people discriminated against in Austria, new report reveals

The Austrian non-government organisation Zara receives complaints and assists victims of racism and discrimination in the country. Every year, they deal with cases which involve attacks on Muslims, black mothers and their children being harassed and more. In 2022, they received 1,479 reports of racist incidents, according to a recent Rassismus Report.

For the first time, the numbers have decreased slightly in Austria. In 2021, the organisation documented and handled 1,977 reports of racism. Most of the incidents occurred online (68 percent). Still, many happened in the public sphere, in places for goods & services, involving public authorities and institutions, in employment, in the police institution or within politics & media.

READ ALSO: UPDATE: Why is support for Austria’s far-right FPÖ rising?

One case mentioned within the police happened when a police officer was called to check on an apartment party and allegedly asked only black people to show their identification, according to the report. 

Often, little comes of trying to defend oneself against such police assaults, Zara consultant Matthias Flug told Der Standard. Investigations are mostly dropped, he said. “One reason for this is that there is still no independent body outside the police structures that investigates these complaints,” he criticised.

Austria’s Interior Ministry only recently announced it would open a complaints body to look into police violence, the report added. 

Legal action was taken in two out of ten reports; otherwise, the Zara team reported posts to online platforms or intervened with the actors.

In most cases, victims and witnesses reported islamophobia, followed by complaints of racism. 

READ ALSO: What measures against foreigners is Austria’s far-right trying to take?

‘Omnipresent racism’

“It’s important to be aware of the pervasiveness of racism in our society,” said Zara counsellor Rakhi Schmuck. Affected people could be confronted with it at any time, he added.

“They could experience racism just as much when receiving medical treatment as when shopping at the supermarket. They will never have an effortless reality of life”, Schmuck said.

The report clarifies people’s rights when they suffer from racist encounters. For example, in Austria, racist insults are prohibited by law and, in contrast to simple insults, can be reported to the police. The person affected can authorise the initiation of criminal proceedings. Associations such as ZARA can offer support and legal assistance.