A young Austrian sentenced to jail for endorsing terrorism may face charges after championing radical Islam just weeks after being released from prison.
Mohammed M. was ordered to spend four years behind bars in 2007 after mulling over a terror attack in Austria during the Euro2008 football tournament in an online video. He was released from prison last month. Now the Austrian police’s department for the protection of the constitution and the fight against terrorism (BVT) is checking internet videos of his latest speeches at a mosque in Vienna. Mohammed M. could once more be prosecuted if officials considered his statements as breaches of law.
Newspaper Die Presse reports today (Thurs) that the Austrian, whose family have roots in Egypt, appealed to listeners to do everything “that the flag of Islam is raised at the White House and the Vatican.” The daily also reports that he claimed “prison is not as hard as it sounds.” According to the Kurier newspaper, Mohammed M. told people gathering at the mosque to listen to his speeches that “you’ve got everything you need in jail: a warm bed, a pillow. (…) You can even buy cake – what more do you want?”
Die Presse reveals he said prison was a good place to recruit radicals. “They get there as drug dealers and robbers to be mujahedin when being released,” he is quoted as saying in one of his most recent lectures which were also spread on the internet. Mohammed M. – who glorifies dying as a martyr – reportedly also appealed on fellow Muslims to arm themselves before showing a folding knife he always carries.
It has to be seen whether possible new charges against the 27-year-old man will be issued under the current or a new anti-terror bylaw. The government coalition of Social Democrats (SPÖ) and the conservative People’s Party (ÖVP) recently agreed on a tougher law against so-called hate preachers and everyone who backs terrorism. A draft bill passed the parliament’s judiciary council last week. Delegates may be asked to vote on it this or next month. The right-wing Freedom Party (FPÖ) may also back the suggested changes to the existing regulations.
The SPÖ-ÖVP administration is still at odds about some detailed aspects considering the bylaw. Especially the question whether investigators should be given more rights to monitor terror suspects is a hotly contested issue. While the ÖVP of Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner and Justice Minister Beatrix Karl is in favour of more privileges to anti-terror experts and the police, the Social Democrats have expressed concerns over Austria being turned into a surveillance state. The Greens are understood to have a similar point of view.
Mikl-Leitner also announced she wanted to set up an anti-online terror department at her ministry. Up to 10 million Euros may be invested in the creation of the new unit, the minister explained. Mikl-Leitner spoke of a “growing threat” against Austria.
Research group Karmasin found in July that 37 per cent of Austrians could imagine the existence of secret terror networks in their homeland, with another 12 per cent being convinced without any doubt that there were terror cells in the country. Twelve per cent told the agency they would strictly rule that out. Austria was shattered by some terror attacks in the 1970s but has not been hit ever since while major strikes occurred in Spain, Great Britain and other European countries in the past few years.