Families of Vienna terror attack victims sue Austrian government

The families of two of the victims of November's jihadist attack in Vienna city centre are suing the Austrian state for compensation because of official failings, their lawyers said Tuesday.

Families of Vienna terror attack victims sue Austrian government
A woman lays a flower at a memorial to the victims of the Vienna terror attack at the Austrian embassy in Berlin. Photo: OMER MESSINGER / AFP

Convicted Islamic State sympathiser Kujtim Fejzulai killed four people before being shot dead by police in the first major attack in Austria for decades and the first blamed on a jihadist.

One lawsuit on behalf of the mother of a 24-year-old German student shot dead by the attacker is being brought because “the Austrian authorities didn't do everything in their power to prevent such an attack,” lawyer Norbert Wess told AFP.

An officially commissioned, independent report into security failures in the run-up to the attack recently found that there were several missed opportunities to act on warning signs about Fejzulai's conduct.

ANALYSIS: Vienna terror attack was 'only a matter of time'

The victim's family has been offered a total of 5,800 euros ($7,025) in compensation and help with funeral costs, but that amount doesn't even come close to covering the cost of transporting the body to Germany, Wess says.

In addition the text of the lawsuit says that the victim's mother “has had to be treated for depression… and take daily medication”, as well as not being fit for work.

The lawsuit demands a total of over 104,000 euros to reflect the trauma the family has suffered and the high funeral costs. In addition the family felt themselves insensitively treated by the Austrian authorities in the wake of the attack.

In order to receive compensation her sister had to “prove, through photos and similar means, that there was a close emotional bond with the victim”.

While this is the established legal procedure, Wess says authorities could possibly have taken “a more accommodating approach… in such an obviously tragic case”.

Having to provide proof of their relationship “put a great strain on the victim's sister,” he said.

The lawyer for the parents of a second, 21-year-old Austrian victim also confirmed to AFP they were filing a lawsuit demanding compensation on similar grounds.

“We will demand compensation for the grief, shock and for the funeral costs,” Mathias Burger told AFP.

Referring to the failure to spot warning signs about Fejzulai,Burger said there had been “grave neglect on the part of the authorities which justifies a public liability lawsuit”.

He said the claim would be for 30,000 euros for each parent, plus the costs of the funeral and extra compensation for the victim's mother whom Burger described as “heavily traumatised”.

“We hope to settle this without going to trial,” he added.

A third lawsuit claiming official liability for failing to prevent the attack is being brought as well on behalf of several of those injured, also demanding more generous compensation.

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‘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.”