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Call for FPÖ chief's Facebook page to be shut

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Call for FPÖ chief's Facebook page to be shut
Heinz-Christian Strache. Photo: Facebook/Personal
12:13 CEST+02:00
The Austrian lawyer who filed a criminal case against the leader of the Freedom Party (FPÖ), Heinz-Christian Strache, for inciting hatred has called for Strache's Facebook page to be shut down.

Georg Zanger wants the FPÖ boss and several other people who left comments on his popular Facebook page to be charged with inciting hatred. The Vienna Prosecutor's Office is currently investigating the case and will make a decision on whether Strache may have broken Austria's speech laws against minorities and refugees.

Strache posted a newspaper article about a young Syrian asylum seeker attempting to kill himself by lying in front of a tram in Vienna, with the comment: ‘Stunned!'. It triggered a wave of hate comments directed at asylum seekers, and anyone critical of an anti-immigration viewpoint.

Zanger says that in order for Strache to avoid facing pretrial detention as he is at risk of repeating the offence of hate speech, his Facebook page should be closed down immediately.

Strache meanwhile is furious about the allegations. "Some people are obviously trying to criminalize me, to target me personally and to ban freedom of expression and press freedom on my Facebook page," he wrote on Facebook.

This week, Strache provoked criticism by posting a picture of himself on Austria's national day in front of an Austrian flag and the parliament building, along with a verse from the “Kernstock-Hymne″ - the national anthem of Austria from 1929 until 1938.

Lawyers have differing views on whether or not the FPÖ chief is responsible for the comments that other users make on his popular Facebook page. Though many of the ‘hate speech' posts are promptly removed by the page's administrator, some are left up for hours. Some legal experts claim that the length of time it takes to delete the posts could be a factor - especially if they are inciting violence.

The punishments for hate speech were toughened up last year, and can now mean a jail sentence of up to one year. So far in 2016, 16 cases have gone to court. In July, a 40-year-old Viennese woman was sentenced to four months in prison for posting hate comments on Facebook.

In neighbouring Germany, PEGIDA founder Lutz Bachmann was found guilty of inciting hatred earlier this year after he posted comments on his Facebook page, referring to asylum seekers as "cattle," "scum," and "trash."

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