Terror travel suspect arrested

People’s Party (ÖVP) Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner has revealed intentions to implement stricter laws after an alleged organiser of trips to terror camps in Pakistan was put in detention.

The minister explained today (Fri) she will meet ÖVP Justice Minister Beatrix Karl for talks over the issue. Mikl-Leitner – who was sworn in last April – said she was in favour of making “preaching of hate” a punishable act. The interior minister added agitators and people encouraging others to carry out terrorist actions should be sanctioned more stringently.

The suggestions of Mikl-Leitner – who recently set up a new anti-cyber crime unit –  need the support of her party’s coalition partner, the Social Democrats (SPÖ), if they should reach legal status.

The minister vowed anti-terror investigators will receive highly developed equipment. She made clear Austria would show “no tolerance” towards terrorist tendencies. Mikl-Leitner, who is considered to be a hardliner about immigration issues, added her ministry was willing to “start a dialogue” with Austria’s Muslims to prevent people from drifting into terrorism.

Her statements come two days after a 25-year-old Austrian was arrested at Vienna International Airport (VIA or VIE). The man is accused of organising journeys to so-called terror camps in Pakistan. Three other people put in custody as part of the same police operation were released a few hours later. Investigators assume they planned to attend camps managed by feared militant group al-Qaeda. The suspects – who had been under surveillance for months, according to a spokesman for the interior ministry – told police they wanted to visit a school teaching the theories of Islam. The spokesman announced today that the 25-year-old alleged organiser of the trip remains in detention as investigations continue.

Meanwhile, the head of a mosque in Vienna has claimed he was aware of other mosques in the city attended by radical Islamists. The man said he had no idea why newspapers identified his mosque – located in the district of Favoriten – as a possible meeting point of terror-endorsing Muslims. He said there were other such institutions in the Austrian capital where people of such mindset were meeting.

Around half a million of the 8.5 million people living in Austria are Muslims. While experts rule out that the country is a target of terrorists, Freedom Party (FPÖ) General Secretary Harald Vilimsky infuriated political rivals, non-government organisations (NGOs) and sociologists by branding the country’s mosques as “hotbeds of radical Islam.”