Police accused of ignoring neo-Nazi attack

Viennese police officers are facing jail over failing to help a retired politician after he was assaulted by a right-wing mob.

Albrecht Konecny, the former head of the Social Democrats’ (SPÖ) delegation in the federal council (Bundesrat), said a group of policemen were watching on as he was beaten up on his way home from a street event against xenophobia and fascism.

Konecny attended an event organised by several human rights organisations and non-government organisations (NGOs) last month. Representatives of the Jewish Community in Vienna (IKG), Austrian unionists, the Austrian Green Party and students also attended by gathering in Vienna’s Innere Stadt district last month.

They also came together to commemorate the victims of the Nazis’ killings at the death and slave labour camp of Auschwitz. The open air event took place on the same day as a ball co-organised by student fraternities with a right-wing extremist background. NGOs were outraged that this year’s Viennese Corporations Ball was staged on the international Auschwitz concentration camp commemoration day. Organisers of the ball – which was attended Front National (FN) chairwomen Marine Le Pen and Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) leader Heinz-Christian Strache – claimed that this was pure coincidence.

Konecny said the group of people who punched him senseless that night were most likely members of Austria’s neo-Nazi scene. The former politician stressed that the police officers who were nearby did not help him on his feet after the attackers ran away. Konecny said they did not call an ambulance either, claiming that the police radio was busy.

Now it emerged that the Viennese police directorate started an internal investigation. The officers accused of denial of assistance when the physical assault occurred could be imprisoned for up to six months, according to reports. Newspapers also reveal today (Fri) that the leaders of police in the capital city decided to ask the state prosecution to investigate the matter.

The disputed ball took place at Vienna’s Hofburg Palace for the first time in 1968. A group of companies handling the venue’s promotion and marketing activities decided not to extend the contract with student fraternities due to the mounting political controversy. This means that the right-wingers must search for another venue from next year.

Several FPÖ officials and supporters filed protest notes to the firms in charge of the decision. They warned from a boycott as a consequence if their decision was final. Several five-star hotels such as Vienna’s Intercontinental and Sacher but also Casinos Austria would be affected by their reaction as they are part of the business cooperation in charge of Hofburg Palace’s economic concerns.

Viennese police forces shut down vast areas around the building on the evening of the ball in the past years to avoid riots. A spokesman for the police said hundreds of people from several European countries, especially Germany, participated in violent action against the guests of the event as they tried to make their way into Hofburg Palace. Three Vienna Corporations Ball attendants and five police officers were injured on the night this year. An undisclosed number of protesters were temporarily detained.