Hand grenade murder trial starts in Vienna

The trial of three people accused of killing two men with a hand grenade and a revolver in January has started in Vienna.

Hand grenade murder trial starts in Vienna
The accused in court. Photo: APA/Schlager

Kristijan H. (35) is accused of murdering two men because he feared they would blow the whistle on his illegal diesel business.

His elder sister and a 30-year-old friend are alleged to have been his accomplices in the attack on January 11th.

Truck driver Zlatko N. (45) and Horst Waldemar W. (57) – who had been working as a driver for Zlatko – were murdered in the bloody attack in Odoakergasse in Ottakring, Vienna.

They had been working with Kristijan H., importing around 1.53 million litres of diesel directly to service stations without paying some €600,000 worth of diesel tax.

Kristijan H. remained silent in court, saying only that he had set out his “motives and reasons” in a letter to the court and prosecutor and he could say no more, claiming he had been threatened.

The prosecutor said that Kristijan H. had initially planned to kill the pair with a pipe bomb but had decided against it as he thought it could injure onlookers.

He shot Zlatko N. in the head and chest as he sat in a parked car. He had planned to shoot German Horst Waldemar as well but his revolver jammed and he threw a hand grenade into the car instead.

His 43-year-old sister is accused of helping him organise the murder and driving him and his friend to Odoakergasse and then helping them escape after the shooting.

She denies any involvement and said that she believed she was driving them to a business meeting. The 30-year-old alleged accomplice was seriously injured when the grenade exploded and also denies having known about Kristijan H’s plan.

The trial is scheduled to last for three days and if found guilty the trio face life imprisonment.

The accused’s 63-year-old father has already been sentenced to nine months in prison and fined €1,800 for bringing his son the hand grenade from Croatia.

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What happens if you get arrested in Austria?

It’s always good to know your legal rights when living as a foreigner in Austria - including if you get in trouble with the police.

What happens if you get arrested in Austria?

Getting arrested is probably not high up on a list of must-dos for international residents in Austria, but it’s not a bad idea to know what would happen if you did.

In a nutshell, the process in Austria is similar to most other countries in that you have to be suspected of committing a crime to be arrested.

But what happens next? What are your rights? And how long can someone be held in custody?

Here’s what you need to know.

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When can someone be arrested in Austria?

If someone is suspected of being a criminal, they can be arrested by the police and taken to a police station for questioning. 

Under the Austrian Code of Criminal Procedure, suspects must be informed of their rights as soon as possible, or at the very least before being interrogated by the police.

They also have a right to remain silent or to make a statement, as well as consult a lawyer.

According to Vienna-based attorney Evert Vastenburg, the initial detainment after arrest can last up to 48 hours while a judge decides whether a person should remain in custody or not.

A suspect can then be released on bail or under certain conditions, such as handing over a passport to police.

However, those suspected of serious crimes that typically lead to a prison sentence of 10 years or more (if found guilty) are almost always remanded in custody.

READ MORE: Austria wary of cyber attacks after personal data of foreign residents leaked online

When is someone remanded in custody?

To be refused bail and remanded in custody, there must be serious suspicion that another crime could be committed. 

The judge also must believe there is no other way to deal with the suspect. For example, he/she needs to be readily available to the authorities for questioning.

Another valid reason to keep someone in custody past the initial 48 hours is the risk of someone absconding. In fact, Vastenburg says a flight risk is often assumed with people that do not live and work in Austria.

Other reasons to deny a suspect release are a risk that evidence will be destroyed, witnesses will be contacted, or there is a possibility that further crimes will be committed.

What happens if bail is denied?

If bail is denied and a person must be held in custody for more than 48 hours, they have to be legally represented by a lawyer.

If a suspect can’t afford to hire a lawyer, they will be appointed a Verfahrenshilfe (public defender) by the state.

The case will be then reviewed by a judge on a regular basis to decide if custody should continue.

The first review will take place after 14 days, then at one month and every two months, but a suspect can petition for release at any time.

READ ALSO: Six tourist scams to be aware of in Austria

How many foreigners are in Austrian prisons?

According to data from the Austrian Judiciary, the number of foreigners in Austrian jails as of June 1st 2022 was 4,332 – almost 50 percent of all prisoners.

In relation to the statistics, the Austrian Judiciary states: “The high proportion of foreigners is one of many challenges for the Austrian penal system. 

“In particular, with regard to successful rehabilitation, the fastest possible transfer to the countries of origin is encouraged.

The most common nationality of foreign prisoners in Austria is Romanian, followed by people from the former Yugoslavian states, Hungary, Nigeria and Turkey.