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Vienna attack: Austria to introduce preventive detention for terror offenders

Austria will introduce preventive detention for people convicted of terror offences following the deadly terrorist attack in Vienna last week.

Vienna attack: Austria to introduce preventive detention for terror offenders
Photo: JOE KLAMAR / AFP

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz announced the measures on Wednesday.

Even if people have served their sentences for terror offences, but are not yet seen as being completely deradicalised, “we will make it possible to lock those people up in order to protect the public,” Kurz told a news conference after a cabinet meeting.

In some cases, people who have just been released will be monitored with an electronic ankle bracelet or a wristband, Kurz said, without explaining exactly when this particular method would be used or when preventive detention would be applied.

READ: Police in Austria raid dozens of 'Islamist-linked' addresses 

The measures are part of a package to be put to MPs for approval in December.

“It is a strong intervention, but, from my point of view, a necessary step to minimise the threat to our population,” Kurz said, calling people like the Austrian-Macedonian dual national who killed four people last week “ticking time bombs.”

Kurz also said there were plans to strip dual citizens convicted of terrorism offences of their Austrian citizenship. The Vienna attacker had been jailed for trying to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State and was released early on condition he take part in a deradicalisation programme.

People convicted of terror-related offences could also be stripped of welfare benefits and have their driving licence taken away from them, Kurz said.

Central register

In July, Slovakian intelligence warned their Austrian counterparts that the Vienna attacker had attempted to buy ammunition, but no action was taken.

Similarly, the Austrian intelligence services did nothing after the attacker took part in a meeting with Islamists known to the German security services.

Authorities say the 20-year-old man, who was killed by police, was partially radicalised in a mosque and an Islamic association in Vienna, both of which were shut down last week.

Kurz also said the government plans to simplify the process of shutting down associations or mosques deemed to play a role in radicalisation and enable the public to report potential jihadist activities on an online platform. A central register of imams will also be created.

The Green party, now in coalition with Kurz's People's Party (OeVP), had previously criticised the concept of preventive detention while in opposition.

Around 150 individuals who have attempted or succeeded in joining the Islamic State in Syria or Iraq have now returned to the small country of fewer than nine million inhabitants.

On Monday, close to 1,000 police and intelligence service officers raided homes, businesses and associations allegedly tied to the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, seizing millions of euros in cash across four provinces.

Prosecutors insisted that those raids were not connected to the attack last week but were the result of an investigation stretching back more than a year.

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LIVING IN AUSTRIA

‘Decomposing smell’: Austrian police called due to smelly shoes

Austria's police department said they were called to an apartment complex in Vienna after a person was concerned about a "smell of decomposition".

'Decomposing smell': Austrian police called due to smelly shoes

This week, the Viennese police department started a weekly ‘series’ of sharing interesting stories on their social media accounts

Calling the series ‘Misunderstanding Wednesday’ (Missverständnismittwoch), the very first post is about a call they received to an apartment complex after a concerned citizen complained to emergency services about a “smell of decomposition in the staircase”.

READ ALSO: Stephansdom: Vienna woken up after hacker sets church bells to ring at 2am

The alleged corpse, it turns out, was just the neighbour’s smelly shoes which were left in the building corridor, in front of their apartment.

The police didn’t say when exactly the incident took place.

“When our colleagues are called because of the ‘smell of decomposition in the staircase’… and notice that the stunk is from the neighbour’s shoes which were left in front of the apartment door”, the official Twitter account of the Vienna police department reads.

‘When in doubt it is an emergency’

The authorities were light-hearted about the misunderstanding, even sharing a “meme-like” picture on their social media accounts, saying “some missions turn out to be different than initially assumed”.

READ ALSO: Austrian police warn public about new ‘fake cops’ scam

However, they reiterated that the misunderstandings should not deter people from calling 133, the emergency police number. They added that in case of emergencies and even if you are not sure, the authorities should be called and they will assist you.

“Note: in case of doubt, it is an emergency”, the Vienna police department says. “Never be afraid to dial the emergency number.”

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