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Video of police arrest shows 'orgy of violence'

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Video of police arrest shows 'orgy of violence'
Photo: APA
11:49 CET+01:00
The Secretary General of Amnesty International Austria, Heinz Patzelt, has called for Vienna's riot police unit to be disbanded after allegations of serious misconduct have emerged.

In an interview with the Kurier newspaper Patzelt said that members of the police unit had clearly abused their position of power. 

The case concerns a 47-year-old businesswoman from Vienna who says she was beaten up by police on New Year’s Eve, and has found video surveillance which clearly shows her on the ground, restrained, and surrounded by around nine police officers.

She was returning home on foot from a New Year’s Eve party when she passed a group of police at a gas station, who asked her to do a breathalyzer test. She refused and was taken to a police van and restrained.

Police allege that she became violent towards them, and they arrested her for civil disorder and for “seriously injuring” police officers. She spent the night in police cells.

When her doctor examined her the next day he confirmed that she had fractured her coccyx and had severe bruising to her head and knees. She told the Falter news magazine that police stood on her legs and intentionally hit her in the back, calling her abusive names. Falter has published the video of the incident on its website

She filed a complaint against the police on New Year’s Day but got no response. It was only after she managed to later get hold of CCTV footage of her arrest (which the police and prosecutor had not even looked at) that the prosecutor agreed to reexamine the case.

She is due to appear in court later this month and could face up to three years in prison if found guilty.

Amnesty's Heinz Patzelt said that the written statement that police gave after the incident "is 15 pages of lies, deception and slander”.

“The video footage clearly shows an orgy of violence, which every police officer there was aware of.”

He said that Vienna’s Bereitschaftspolizei (riot police) unit was referred to internally as "the child soldiers" as it was regularly staffed by inexperienced graduates of the police academy, who are called on to make “spectacular arrests”.

Patzelt also criticised the prosecutor in the case, who he said had made "blunders" and was "complicit" with the police.

There have been 250 accusations of police misconduct in Vienna in the past year, but not one policeman has been charged, according to a report on state broadcaster ORF. In contrast, 1,329 people were charged with civil disorder last year.

ORF reported on another case from New Year’s Eve where a young man who was celebrating in the first district with his family was attacked by a group of youths. However, instead of coming to their aid, police arrested and restrained the young man and his brothers.

Patzelt said the New Year’s Eve case was no isolated incident but symptomatic of "massive structural problems, which have been known about for years". He said the only thing that made this case different was that the victim had found video evidence of her arrest.

“Vienna’s Mayor Michael Häupl must do something. He plays a very strong role in what goes on in Vienna Police Headquarters, but doesn’t seem to think there’s a problem", Patzelt said.

He added that the police in Vienna is “light years away” from being an organisation which seeks to protect people.


 

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