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CRIME

Teenager in court for fatal knife attack

A 17-year-old Afghan boy accused of stabbing a 31-year-old man to death on a German language course in March has told a court in Vienna that he never meant for anyone to die.

Teenager in court for fatal knife attack
AMS

The teenager, who arrived in Vienna with his mother and sister in 2013, was taking an AMS German language course so he could catch up with his Austrian peers at school.

A fight broke out between him and the older man, who was also from Afghanistan, over the discussion of music and Islam. The teenager had reportedly told the 31-year-old father-of-two, whose passion was to make music, that he did not listen to music that the Quran does not allow.

A scuffle broke out as a result and the two had to be separated by colleagues and the supervisor.

According to prosecutors, the teenager had then planned to “finish” the other man and returned to the course the next day with two knives, attacking the 31-year-old and stabbing him to death.

The defendant challenges this version of events, however, and says he only brought the knives before he was fearful of his life following threats made by the victim during the fight.

He said when he returned to the course the next day the 31-year-old tried to choke him so he went to stab his hand, but got his stomach instead.

“I want to apologise. I regret that a person was killed,” the defendant told the court on Thursday. “I thought that he would kill me.”

This contradicts statements made by witnesses and the police, however, that suggest the victim neither attacked nor threatened the life of the defendant before he was attacked.

The victim, who leaves behind a wife and two young children, received 17 cuts and stab wounds, including fatal punctures to his lung, stomach, diaphragm, and liver. The teenager fled following the incident but was caught a week later near a motorway in the town of Vösendorf.

The defendant pleaded partially guilty but told the court he was acting in self-defence. If found guilty of murder he could face up to 15 years in jail. The case has been postponed until November.

 

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CRIME

Does Austria have a street car racing problem?

A fatal accident involving a speeding driver in the streets of Austria's capital Vienna has once again sparked the debate about illegal car racing in the country.

Does Austria have a street car racing problem?

A 26-year-old man sped through the streets of central Vienna in his Mercedes on a Sunday evening.

After he failed to stop at a red light he mowed into a car being driven by a 48-year-old woman. She later died in hospital.

The police had said a video recorder at the time of the accident showed evidence the driver was taking part in some kind of illegal race. Even though a Vienna court later said it saw “no evidence at all” that indicates street racing, the debate was already ignited.

Does Austria, and especially Vienna, have an illegal car racing problem?

According to the Viennese police, there are no statistics specifically for street racing. However, “there is an active racing scene in Vienna”, spokesperson Markus Dittrich told The Local.

READ ALSO: What happens if you get arrested in Austria?

Estimates put the number of “members of the illegal scene” in Vienna between 800 to 1,000 people. Current hotspots are still the area around Kahlenberg, Triester Straße, the Oberlaa area and the Kagran business park.

The police measured instances of speeding and from April to August 2022, around 6,500 reports were placed in the capital and 30 driving licenses were confiscated on site.

What are the police currently doing?

“In order to take decisive action against the active racing scene, checks have been significantly increased.”

“Furthermore, coordinated traffic planning checks are being carried out by the Vienna police department and various city police commands, and the relevant municipal departments are also involved”, Dittrich said.

In August, the City of Vienna took action in one of the “hotspots” for racing, adding 65 concrete barriers to prevent races in the car park in Kahlenberg, as The Local reported.

As racers move to different areas once blocks are put in place, the police also resort heavily on the two consequences it can impose: high fines and the revocation of driving licenses.”.

READ ALSO: Vienna wants to take action against speeding drivers

Fines can reach up to €5,000 on higher offences, such as driving 40 km/h or more over the speeding limit in a city (or 50 km/h above limits on a road). In addition, driving licences can be withheld for one month or three months in the case of repeated offences.

From an excess of 80 km/h, the license is taken away for half a year.

Calls for changes in the law

The recent debate in Austria has also now brought the issue of possible changes in the law, with experts claiming that the current legislation might not be sufficient.

Illegal racing is not a crime per se, but offences such as “endangering physical safety” or “deliberate endangerment of the public” are applied. If people are killed or injured, the crime is negligence – with up to three years in prison possible for those convicted of grossly negligent homicide.

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about driving on the autobahn in Austria

Some are asking for “zero tolerance“, saying that the crimes should not be seen as negligence but as murder – those who drive too fast or under the influence of alcohol take a risk knowing they might kill someone.

Others, however, say that turning negligence into murder holds a trap. “Attempted murder is also punishable. So the penalty for just participating in an illegal auto race where nothing happened? In practice, for example, 12 years in prison for 350 meters of a car race on Triester Straße?” wrote Constitutional Court member Dr Michael Rami on Twitter.

Still, the head of the legal services at Austria’s traffic authority ÖAMTC, Martin Hoffer, told public broadcaster ORF: “To prove murder against someone, you, of course, have to prove the corresponding intentionality”.

“That doesn’t mean a specific intention to kill a certain person, but to seriously consider it possible (and to accept) that someone may die in that situation.” So, a racing driver may not set out to kill someone, but they acknowledge that their actions could result in somebody’s death.

That could be a realistic scenario in an illegal race – and the debate in Austria continues.

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