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Putin criticises Austrian justice system over rape case

Russia’s president Vladimir Putin has criticised Austria for acquitting an Iraqi refugee who raped a schoolboy - failing to realise that the man has not been acquitted, but had his sentence overturned due to procedural errors.

Putin criticises Austrian justice system over rape case
The Supreme Court meets in Austria's Palace of Justice. Photo: Hubertl / Wikimedia

On Monday, without naming Austria, Putin railed against what he called the “acquittal” of a refugee who was accused of raping a boy in a “European state”.

“In a European country, a child is raped by a migrant, and the court released him for two reasons: he speaks the language of the country badly, and he did not understand that the boy was a boy,” Putin said during a conference in Astrakhan, southern Russia.

“This is the result of the dissolution of traditional national values,” he said, adding that a society that cannot defend its children has no future.

Earlier this year, the 20-year-old Iraqi migrant was found guilty of serious sexual assault and rape of a minor at a swimming pool in Vienna and was sentenced to six years in jail. But in October the Supreme Court lifted the verdict of six years imprisonment and ordered a re-execution of the proceedings.

The Supreme Court found that while the verdict was “watertight” with regard to the serious sexual abuse of a juvenile, the written verdict on the second indictment, rape, cannot be sufficiently proved.

According to the Supreme Court, the first court should have ascertained whether the offender had thought that the victim agreed to the sexual act and whether Amir A. had the intention to act against the will of the boy.

The rape case therefore must go back before the regional court. In the second legal process, which presumably will take place in 2017, a new sentence must be imposed. The 20-year-old will remain in custody until then.

A Russian blog which is critical of the media reported on the developments but managed to get its facts wrong, dispensing with the legal details and criticising Austria’s “sky high tolerance” and what it referred to as an “acquittal”.

IMMIGRATION

‘Discrimination’: Austria’s benefit cuts for immigrants ‘go against free movement’

Benefit cuts imposed by Austria on immigrants whose children live in their country of origin contradict EU law becasue they constitute "discrimination on the ground of nationality", a legal adviser at the bloc's top court said on Thursday.

A picture of the sign and logo of the Court of Justice of the European Union in Luxembourg
A picture of the sign and logo of the Court of Justice of the European Union in Luxembourg on January 13, 2020. (Photo by JOHN THYS / AFP)

The opinion is the latest legal hitch to befall a series of measures — imposed by a previous government that included the far-right — which sought to restrict benefit payments to foreigners.

Richard de la Tour, advocate general of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), said the cuts to child benefits constituted “an infringement of the right of free movement conferred on EU citizens”.

The specific case relates to reforms that came into effect in 2019 which indexed child benefits according to where the recipient’s children live.

This meant reduced payments for tens of thousands of eastern Europeans who work in Austria — notably in the care sector — but whose children remain in their countries of origin.

The advocate general’s advice is not binding on the court but it is seen as influential.

De la Tour found that the cuts were “indirect discrimination on the ground of nationality which is permissible only if it is objectively justified”, and that Austria had failed to do so.

They contravened the principle that “if a migrant worker pays social contributions and taxes in a member state, he or she must be able to benefit from the same allowances as nationals of that state”, he added.

In 2020 the European Commission, supported by six eastern member states, brought an action before the CJEU claiming Austria was “failing to fulfil its obligations”.

Former Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz had said he hoped the cuts would save 114 million euros ($130 million) a year but in 2019 they recouped 62 million euros.

The former coalition also introduced benefit cuts for immigrants who failed to reach a certain level of German, but those measures were subsequently overturned by the Austrian courts.

The government that introduced in the cuts was brought down in a corruption scandal in May 2019.

It included the centre-right Austrian People’s Party (OeVP), which is still the senior partner in the current government.

However their current coalition partners, the Greens, opposed the benefit cuts at the time.

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