Austrian court says it’s fine to give the finger to far-right leader

A court has upheld the right of Austrians to give the leader of the country's far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) the finger, officials confirmed on Thursday.

Austrian court says it's fine to give the finger to far-right leader
Protesters in Vienna hold up a sign with the crossed-out Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (L)(ÖVP) and Heinz -Christian Strache (Freedom Party Austria, FPÖ) in January 2018. Photo: AFP

Heinz-Christian Strache had accused the far-left group “Linkswende” of slander after they published a video before last year's elections featuring supporters giving their reasons for saying “Fuck Strache” whilst showing their middle fingers.

Strache lost an initial judgement in the case in December and on Thursday officials confirmed to the APA news agency that his appeal before Vienna's Higher Regional Court had been rejected.

Linkswende spokesman David Albrich called the decision “a victory both for freedom of speech and of the press”.

After last year's elections Strache's FPÖ entered government as a junior partner to the centre-right People's Party (ÖVP) of Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and Strache himself became vice-chancellor.


Ex-leader of Austrian far right charged with corruption

The former head of Austria's far right party, Heinz-Christian Strache who rose to vice-chancellor, has been charged with corruption, prosecutors said Thursday, following the "Ibizagate" scandal that brought down the ruling coalition.

Ex-leader of Austrian far right charged with corruption
Heinz-Christian Strache. Photo: ALEX HALADA / AFP

Strache retired from politics after a video emerged showing him in Ibiza offering political favours in exchange for financial support.

He is accused of “receiving advantages” for his “support to modify legislation” and enable a cosmetic surgery clinic to join the country’s social security system, the prosecutors’ statement said.

In 2019, Austria’s government of Conservatives and the far right Freedom Party (FPOe) collapsed after the video, filmed secretly on the Spanish holiday island two years earlier, was leaked to the media.

The video had been shot when Strache was running for election, but he had become vice-chancellor by the time it was leaked and that proved devastating, sparking a police investigation.

Strache’s mobile phone revealed that he intervened when in office in 2018 to have the cosmetic surgery clinic put into the health system.

Strache faces up to five years in prison if found guilty. The clinic’s owner has also been charged, media reports said, linked to a 10,000-euro ($12,000) donation to the FPOe.

He had invited Strache aboard his yacht and told a parliamentary committee that the politician also spent four days at his holiday home on the Greek island of Corfu in 2016.