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POLICE

Offices of Austrian Chancellor Kurz’s party raided in Vienna

Austria's ruling People's Party (OeVP) said it had been targeted by raids from prosecutors on Wednesday morning, with local media reporting that offices in the chancellery were among those searched.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz walks through the rain holding an umbrella.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and his party have had their offices raided. Photo: JOE KLAMAR / AFP

Cellphones and documents were confiscated in the raids, which Austrian media reported was connected to ongoing corruption allegations. 

Deputy OeVP general secretary Gaby Schwarz confirmed the prosecutors’ actions but did not confirm who was being investigated, saying only that raids were “for show” and that “accusations were constructed over events that date back as far as five years”.

According to Die Presse newspaper, raids also took place in the chancellery and targeted several employees of OeVP Chancellor Sebastian Kurz.

The newspaper reported that the raids related to possible corruption offences in the publication of adverts and opinion polls in the Oesterreich daily.

Kurz himself is allegedly suspected of being an accessory to the offences, it added.

OeVP Finance Minister Gernot Bluemel said there had been a raid at his ministry but said it did not concern him personally or his time in office.

Kurz began his second term as chancellor in January 2020 at the head of a coalition with the Green party.

His previous government, a coalition with the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe), fell apart in May 2019 over the so-called “Ibiza-gate” corruption scandal.

After ex-FPOe chief Heinz-Christian Strache was caught on camera appearing to offer public contracts in exchange for campaign help for the FPOe, investigators launched several sprawling investigations into alleged corruption in Austrian politics.

Some of these have targeted high-ranking OeVP figures, including Bluemel. Kurz himself is under investigation on suspicion of making false statements to a parliamentary committee on corruption, though he has not been charged.

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CRIME

Austrian Josef Fritzl to be released to ‘normal prison’

Josef Fritzl, was imprisoned in 2009 for the rape and unlawful detention of his daughter in the Austrian village of Amstetten, has been released from psychiatric detention on Wednesday and is set to serve in a standard prison. Fritzl is eligible for early release in 2023.

Austrian Josef Fritzl to be released to ‘normal prison’

When making the decision, the Krems Regional Court held that Fritzl no longer posed any danger and could therefore be kept in a standard jail. 

Fritzl, who changed his name to Mayrhoff while in prison, was jailed in 2009 for several crimes including the unlawful imprisonment and rape of his daughter Elizabeth, who bore him seven children in a specially built soundproof basement. 

One of the children, a boy, died shortly after birth in 1996, upon which Fritzl burnt his body. 

Court spokesman Ferdinand Schuster told Austrian media on Wednesday that the decision was subject to an appeal to the Higher Regional Court (OLG) in Vienna. 

Fritzl’s release into the mainstream prison system was decided upon by a three-judge panel under a probation period of ten years. 

The panel made its decision based on a mental health assessment produced in March. 

Fritzl stood trial in 2008 for the crimes, having been deemed sane and therefore faced mainstream charges. 

Fritzl is eligible for release as early as 2023 after receiving a life sentence. 

Austrian media pointed out on Wednesday that a 2023 release would see him serve nine years less than his daughter Elizabeth spent in Josef’s basement dungeon. 

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