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Vorarlberg Neo-Nazi convicted

A 27-year-old Vorarlberg man has been found guilty of engaging in National Socialist activities, including operating as a leading member of the group National Action Vorarlberg.

Vorarlberg Neo-Nazi convicted
Swastika symbol and flag. File photo: APA/Henning Kaiser

Sentenced to seven months conditional imprisonment and a €7,200 fine, the man is said to have organized round table meetings and operated a website which disseminated Nazi content. The defendant himself denied the allegations.

The website in question calls for "a non-violent revolution of the mind" and the abolition of democracy, to be replaced by a national community. It also demands freedom for the right-wing radical Gottfried Küssel.

The material was found on the man's computer in his apartment, along with images and symbols reminiscent of and glorifying the Nazi era.

Senior prosecutor Wilfried Siegele found there was clear evidence the defendant was distributing texts and images with Nazi content, against the relevant laws of the Prohibition Act.

During the court process, the young man stressed that terms such as "Heroes Memorial", "Ostmark", and symbols such as the ibex and the number "88" which is used in certain circles as a code for "Heil Hitler", could also be understood in a neutral way.

"Who does something like that?" Siegele asked during the trial.

The site was registered on an American server, where there is no information as to who owns the site.

The whole presentation, the content and symbols are all very clearly Nazi symbols, Siegele told the court.

"There is no doubt that this is a case of re-engagement with National Socialist Activities," said Seigele. "This has nothing to do with freedom of speech."

The three-time offender told the court he was a nationalist and wanted a people's democracy, where the people have more say, instead of the current democracy.

"The goal is the identity of our people."

Judge Peter Mueck questioned the defendant as to which people he was referring to – Germans, or Austrians?

The accused was unanimously found guilty by the jury.

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EXPLAINED: What rules does Austria have on gun ownership?

The country has one of the most permissive gun laws in Europe. However, applicants still need a license and go through evaluations before being allowed to buy a weapon.

EXPLAINED: What rules does Austria have on gun ownership?

As the debate on gun ownership laws is brought back into the headlines after a tragic mass shooting in the United States on May 24th, it might be surprising to read that tranquil and peaceful Austria is also one of Europe’s most permissive countries regarding gun laws.

Private gun ownership is allowed for several reasons, including self-defence, though, unlike in the US, there is no right to private gun ownership guaranteed by law, according to monitoring group Gunpolicy.org.

To own a gun, it is necessary to have a proper license.

Who can have a license in Austria?

Licenses are self-paid, expensive and only issued to people who can prove a “genuine reason” (that includes hunting, collection, personal protection, and target shooting).

Additionally, people need to be at least 18 years old or 21 years for certain types of weapons.

Third-country nationals residing illegally and asylum seekers are not allowed to buy, possess, or hold weapons and ammunition in the Austria.

Gun owners need to undergo background checks that consider criminal and mental health records. There is also a limit to the number of firearms and ammunition that a person can have.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Why is gun ownership in Austria on the rise?

People also need specific permits if they intend on carrying a firearm in public or openly.

Are there restrictions on firearms and ammunition?

Civilians are not allowed to own certain types of automatic firearms.

In addition, they cannot have any guns disguised as other objects or armour-piercing, incendiary and expanding ammunition.

How armed are Austrian citizens?

According to the Small Arms Survey, a Geneva-based research group, Austria is the 12th most armed country globally, with around 30 guns per 100 people, similar to Lebanon, Bosnia and Iceland.

By comparison, the United States has 120 guns per 100 people, and the most-armed European country, Macedonia, has 39.1.

According to the Ministry of the Interior, 1.16 million firearms are currently registered in Austria.

READ ALSO: Outrage in Austria as gun stores allowed to remain open despite coronavirus lockdown

Experts believe more than one million illegal guns could also be in the country, possibly because of Austria’s close links to the Balkans.

According to the Chairman of the German arms lobby association, David Schiller, after the military conflicts there ended in the 1990s, many weapons found their way across the border.

How safe is Austria?

While about 250 people die in gun-related incidents a year, Austria is still a very safe country. With a homicide rate of 0.97 per 100,000 people, it has fewer murders than the UK, Denmark or Sweden when adjusted for population.

READ ALSO: ‘I don’t miss the guns’: How Americans feel about living in Austria

Austria’s murder rate is slightly higher than Germany, which has far lower gun ownership.

Those who enjoy going to shooting galleries or hunting with guns in Austria point out that gun licences are expensive, and a psychiatric evaluation is required before getting your hands on a weapon.

People also report local police pay visits to gun owners to check if the firearms are stored properly.

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