Austrian Government’s Procedures towards Muslim and Palestinian Activists
Violate Basic Rights Guaranteed by Law
With the aim at intimidation for Political Reasons, and a
Call to Preserve Austria's Human Values
Palestinian Association for Human Rights (witness)
First: Why This Report?
Palestinian Association for Human Rights (witness) via
this report seeks to:
1. Shed lights on the
violations suffered by humanitarian institutions, associations and political activists
who support the human issues in general and Palestinian issues in particular,
without real legal bond.
2. Highlight on
humanitarian associations that were raided and which are considered living
source upon which thousands of children and sick and disabled people depend.
3. Show positive aspects
for Muslims in general and the Palestinian community in particular and the
extent of positive integration at all levels.
4. Draw attention to the
importance of confronting the far-right trends in Europe
5. Confirmation on the
importance of human rights in dealing with Muslims in general and Palestinians
in particular, who get away from places which their rights being violated
Second: What are the basics on which the report relied?
1. The report relied on
testimonies provided by the victims or their families about what happened to
them during and after the raid. Some of our interviewees did not want to be
named, and we respect their request.
2. The report relied on
accurate electronic monitoring for everything related to the campaign (monitoring
for reports, data, Austrian formal interviewees, and journalism conferences.)
3. It relied on the Austrian
constitution and the respect it includes for rights and freedoms.
4. It relied on
monitoring for the legal status of the characters who were arrested and for the
organizations and associations that were raided.
Third: Essential Introductory
Islam in Austria is the second largest
religion in the country, and it is practiced by 8% of the total population,
according to 2016 estimates, Austria has always been known as one of the country's
most open and accommodating of Muslims and practicing their religious rites. In
light of "Islam law” in 1912, which belongs to the royal family of Habsburg at
the time, Austria has been one of the numbered Western countries that legally
recognized Islam as a religion, and there are 205 Approved mosques in Austria
and hundreds of praying places.
There are four mosques in the country
with minarets. There are also many Islamic organizations in Austria.
Glaubensgemeinschaft (Islamic religious
commission in Austria) the organization has two founding members and they are
"the Turkish Austrian Islamic Union” and "Islamic union”.
·The Muslim Youth
Organization in Austria and its a member of the Austrian Federal Youth Council
part of Bundesjugendvertretung and its primary focus on the dialogue
between religions, with Catholics, Jews, Buddhists, and other religious groups
in the country. "The Muslim Youth in Austria” also runs campaigns against
racism and xenophobia. Last year, they won third place in the Carl Youth Prize
of the European Union, for their project entitled Muslims against
·The Austrian Muslim Initiative is led by the engineer Omar Muhammad Nur
al-Rawi, an Austrian politician who belongs to the Austrian Social Democratic
Party, and is currently a member of Vienna's parliament and a member of its
With Ascensus of the far -right parties,
which work on shrink the Muslim's rights and besieged, and under Slogan of the
extreme right” Islam doesn't belong to Austria” these parties garnered the
votes of Austrian voters in early elections in 2017. Muslims in Austria, for
example, from their sources, were subjected to 309 racist attacks during 2017.
This came in a report prepared by "the Center for Documentation and Guidance
for Austrian Muslims”. and the center explains that 98% of the attacks targeted
On November 9, 2020, Austrian police
raided 70 homes in four gatherings, against the backdrop of arrest warrants for
30 people. In a preliminary legal review, these raids were found to have been
accompanied by violations of human rights principles.
On 12 November, Prime Minister Sebastian Kurz made statements about a
"package of anti-terror laws" during a press conference with his
cabinet ministers. Austria also announced that it intends to introduce a
criminal offense called "political Islam", as part of a set of procedures
aimed to anti-terrorism. It is unlikely that the new package of laws, according
to statements by Austrian officials, came against the background of an armed
attack in the capital, Vienna, on November 2, which killed 5 people, including
the perpetrator, and injured 17 others.
Fourth: Organized human rights violations against Muslims
On Monday, 9-11-2020, the Austrian security authorities
carried out a wide range of raids at five in the morning, in which nearly 1,000
officers and soldiers from the special forces in the police and internal
intelligence participated, targeting associations and individuals suspected of
having links to political, media and social activities related to the
Palestinian cause. The raids targeted 60 apartments, houses, and associations'
headquarters in 4 states, and arrested 30 people. The Public Prosecution
announced that the campaign was "not linked" to the attack that
occurred a week before this campaign in the capital Vienna, which resulted in
the death of 4 people.
The Palestinian Association for Human Rights (witness)
has monitored, through testimonies provided by victims, and through electronic
monitoring and human rights follow-up, many human rights violations, which list
·Violations of the privacy
of homes and their late-night break-in.
·Terrifying children and causing psychological problems.
·Psychological and physical torture of some families
suffering from diseases.
·Close personal bank accounts by order of the Attorney
·Excessive use of force (using stun grenades - shooting -
pointing weapons to families while they are asleep)
·Reserve the cash
·Some computers and
smartphones were confiscated and some were forced to open them.
·Violent procedures of shooting, heavy searches, and
tampering with contents.
The Palestinian Association for Human Rights (witness)
confirms, according to the information available to it, that the work
environment for the owners of the houses that were raided is
varied, and many of them work in public affairs. Some of them are a cleric, a
university professor, and directors of humanitarian organizations, and some of
them are very ordinary citizens who are related to the "accused" and
some of them are sick. In addition to terrorizing and spreading terror in the
hearts of children, the Austrian authorities used disproportionate force and
late at night, which confirms that this step comes in the context of a
systematic policy of intimidating a certain group under the heading against the
Muslims of Austria.
If none of the targets committed a crime in the legal
sense, then what can justify this approach from the iron fist and this campaign
against legal entities that carry out humanitarian work of all kinds and for a
long period? Why are innocent citizens' personal and business bank accounts
shutting down at a time when families are under massive financial pressure due
to Covid-19 restrictions and closings?
Austrian political activists, we interviewed see that
this campaign is not based on legal basics, but rather it is a political
campaign par excellence resulting from several reasons. Including the rise of
the European far-right in general and the Austrian far-right in particular, and
some of which are the result of pressure from Arab countries that have a great
interest in confronting political Islam and the Muslim Brotherhood in
Also some of them are an extension of the French campaign
launched by the French President against Islam or an extension of the French
law that is being discussed in the French Parliament, "comprehensive
security", and some of them are the result of chronic and continuous
Israeli pressure against political activists who support the Palestinian cause.
In this regard,
Austrian political activists recommend political and media activism, to
consider the campaign carried out by the Austrian government not based on the
values of justice, freedom, and respect for human rights, but rather on
Testimonies.... Excessive Use of Force
Among those who saw heavily armed counterterrorism
personnel broke-into their door at 5 a.m. on November 9 was a 67-year-old woman
who says: "The glass door of the
family’s small house in the city of Danube was smashed, and they searched it
carefully, seized her and interrogated her for hours. " The allegations
and accusations are heavy, including that the woman belongs to the Hamas
movement, in addition to being accused of financing terrorism and supporting
communication with party's hostile to the state.
Mrs.: "I no longer understand what is going on
in the world. My confidence in the Austrian authorities has been deeply shaken,
and most importantly, the allegations are not true at all."
Dr. Farid Hafez, a professor of political science at the
university who lives in Vienna in the Leizing district says: "They came
to my house at five in the morning heavily armed, and attacked the house and
broke the door and one of the windows with great violence and they took my
children out of bed and took them outside the house in their pajamas. To me,
this was completely unjustified. "
He asked,” "Why is he not able to
see the files of his accusation, and if the police have transparency, why they
do not tell him what they have?"
Sheikh (ED), the imam of a recorded Vienna
mosque, says: "It was like a thunderbolt at us, at five to ten minutes it
knocked on the door with tremendous force. High, they put me to the ground with
all violence and terror, one of them threw me violently on my knee and stepped
on my knee, and I was in pain and screaming: You kill me, I am in pain, I am in
pain, I continued like this for 4 minutes. I almost breathed my last breath,
and I felt that my ribs had penetrated my guts.
My children (9 years and 15 years old), my wife, and two
sons (19 years and 21 years old) lived three hours of extreme terror, during
which they carefully searched and tampered with the contents of the house,
during which they confiscated all electronic devices and left nothing of them.
They confiscated all the private money and left nothing to pay the rent from
it, otherwise rudely, and even the trusts deposited with me confiscated it.
I was taken
to the police for investigation for nearly eleven consecutive hours without
I have been an imam for 23 years and head of the Arab
Islamic Cultus Shura Council in Austria.
I have never violated Austrian laws, I advocate tolerance
and moderation, and I am fully integrated into Austrian society. I have my
political opinion on some matters, but I express it without calling for or
practicing violence and I reject all forms of extremism.
My children are in a state of extreme shock and anxiety
and have not known normal life since then. I do not know how these children
will regain their childhood after all that happened and who will compensate
them for the psychological harm they have suffered.
Testimonies Presented at the Press Conference Held by the
Austrian Mercy Association on Monday 21/12/2020
Hassan, President of the Austrian Mercy Association, says, "The
association is a humanitarian and non-political relief association. Since 2006,
the association has accomplished an unlimited number of humanitarian work. The association supports projects for orphan
children, homeless people, destitute and needy individuals, and refugees,
regardless of religion or "Nationality, ideology, or skin color. The
association's only principle is to assist people most in need."
"In 2019, the association opened
two Palestinian refugee schools with 210 male and female students in Lebanon
and Jordan. Also, 120 wells for drinking water were dug in 9 countries in
Africa and Asia. In addition to distributing 1900 sleeping bags for the
homeless in Austria. On the other hand, the association distributed 121,000
Food parcels and monthly cash assistance for 2,000 orphan children and the
distribution of 5,000 aid annually. The association helps refugee camps in
Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey, and most of its activities focus on these camps.
All our actions comply with the decisions and laws in force in Austria. We were
expecting support and assistance from the Austrian government and not guidance the
political accusations against us of terrorism and the raiding of our
headquarters and our homes. "
"Because of the procedures
taken by the Austrian authorities, children can no longer obtain this aid. The
families who benefit from our services have asked many questions about what
will happen to the children and families after that and who will help
The association’s president, Mr. Taher, affirms, "The
relevant authorities in Austria periodically check the financial situation of
the association, which has not had any defects or reservations but has obtained
its approval. All our financial reports and our annual activities are available
on the Internet.
Mr. Taher adds that "since the ninth of
November 2020, we have lost a lot of donations because the police confiscated
the association's data, froze the association's financial assets, and
anti-state charges were also charged. Our association's logo bears the Austrian
flag, which is visible in all our activities and materials everywhere, even the
staff clothes bore the Austrian flag and the association's logo".
"We will use our legal right
to file a complaint before Austrian fair courts because we are sure that these
accusations are groundless and are completely false."
Personal Testimony of Professor Taher Hassan
"Because of the authorities’
allegations, my house was raided on 11/11/2020 at five in the morning, and a
large number of heavily armed police entered, where I, my wife, and my two
minor children, who's ages three and seven years old, and a 6-month-old baby
We woke up on a sound of an explosion, surrounded by a
group of heavily armed police, who told me to lie on my stomach.
My kids were shocked. They were taken to their mother,
and they were not allowed to leave the room during the entire period of the
house searching. Laptops and computers were confiscated and to this day, they
have not been returned.
My wife told me that my 7-year-old daughter was in tears
when the police officers left the house. She was brought from school twice
because of her nervous breakdowns affected by the events and scenes of the raiding
of the house.
Since the raiding, my children suffer from sleepless
nights accompanied by nightmares, so I would like to point out that this act
that my wife and children were subjected to by the Austrian police is inhuman.
And they are now victims of police violence."
Statement of the auditor of the Austrian Mercy
Association, Mr. Friedrich Baldinger
Auditor Friedrich Baldinger confirms, "There is an absolute
certainty that all funds used have been used as intended in crisis areas.
Despite these difficulties, we as auditors do not see any evidence that would
allow any decision to be made to use donations to finance terrorism and
terrorist groups. We also assessed the fact that aid money was transferred
abroad either through the Austrian banks or through cash transfers that were
duly registered with customs.
On the other hand, the matter of most concern
was the confiscation of commercial documents and electronic equipment, as well
as the freezing of bank accounts, which in fact led to the disruption of the
activities of the Austrian Mercy Association and every week that passes, the
presence of the aid organization is severely compromised. "
The statement of the lawyer Mr. Farid Refaat
Mr. Farid Refaat, who defends the Austrian Mercy Association
and some of the individuals affected by the case, explains some facts:
First:This campaign that took place on 9 November after the terrorist operation
incorrectly suggests that this campaign took place after the terrorist
operation, which left the impression that those affected have a relationship
with the terrorist incident, and this is contrary to the truth and there is no
link between the terrorist incident and these associations.
charges pointed against individuals are incorrect, there is something strange
about this case as it being considered by the Supreme Court and the Public
Prosecution, and that the accused and their lawyers have no right to view the
case and know the charges against them on the pretext that these files are
can the accused defend himself if he does not know what the charges against him
even though the Crimes Law states that the accused has the right to know the charges
against him and defend himself.”
Mr. Rifaat confirms, "This police campaign took
place on 9/11 brutally and we heard that many policemen were heavily armed with
heavy weapons and broke into homes by breaking doors without warning at five in
the morning during the week. Children were asleep, even adults were asleep. Either
people were forced to sit on a chair or lie on the ground; this is an unparalleled and unequal act.
It was not in coordination with the Public Prosecution and the Supreme Court and
this act was barbaric and irresponsible.
Testimony by Mr. Fritz Edlinger
Mr. Fritz Edlinger, a representative of an Austrian
non-governmental organization working for the Austrian-Arab relationship, affirms,
"There is no logical or legal relationship between the terrorist attack in
Vienna and the police raid, as the police raid was prepared on the orders of
the Public Prosecutor Vedras more than a year ago. I mean, it was not a
spontaneous act, it was a planned action against Muslims to defame them as terrorists”
Fritz said, "The police raid is based on false facts
and allegations, and the police raid was aggressive, humiliating, and offensive
to the accused. Interestingly, the questions asked during interrogation had
nothing to do with the police raid allegations, as the questions were designed
to offend certain people from certain religious communities. Among these
·Should men and women be equal?
·Does your wife wear a veil?
·According to Sharia, a Muslim woman may not marry a
Christian, Jew, or non-Muslim Do you agree?
·Can your son marry a non-Muslim woman?
·Do you determine your son's wife or daughter husband?
The questions go in a clear direction, and they are
defamation and intimidation. Some individuals have absolutely nothing to do
with the alleged allegations, and these people have a constructive dialogue
with the government. However, It appears that this campaign is not related to
constructive dialogue with Muslims, but rather to discrimination and
criminalization of Muslims in Austria. I would like to add that this is not a
campaign by the Attorney General’s office only, but a campaign by the Austrian
government. There are two groups targeted in this campaign, the Muslim
Brotherhood on the one hand, and the Palestinian Hamas movement on the other
Sixthly: Muslims (Between Societal Positivity and the Attempt
Important Austrian Muslims:
Mona Dzdar is an Austrian politician of Palestinian
origin and an independent lawyer. She was a member of the Austrian Federal Council
between 2010 and 2012 and between 2012 and 2016, a Member of Parliament and the
Vienna City Council, and in 2016 held the portfolio of Minister of State in
Christian Kern's government.
A Palestinian immigrant was given a golden police badge to save an officer’s
"I am a
Muslim and I am proud of what I have done, this is not Islam. The Islam that we
learned from the Prophet Muhammad did not consist of this." These were the words of Osama Judah, a Palestinian
immigrant to Austria, who was awarded the golden police badge to save the life
of an officer days before the country launched a security campaign targeting
the Muslim community, including raids, arrests, and serious charges.
Besides, many Muslims are working in public schools,
academics, doctors, and officials of associations, and they were affected by the
campaign organized by the Austrian government. The campaign also affected several
former officials of the Islamic religious authority in Austria.
In another scene, Austrian security officers were
interrogating Muslims whose peaceful way of life was suddenly disrupted after
they were dragged to the police station from their homes without warning or
evidence of a crime they had committed. They were questioned about their
religion, sect, and opinion on the application of Islamic law, Israel, Hamas,
female genital circumcision, and the veil in a way that assumed they had indeed
committed a crime.
The aforementioned scenes reflect two broad paradoxes
that reflect a great contrast between the intentions of the Muslim minority and
the practices of the security services, which increasingly tendtowards the far - right. The first scene celebrates the pride of a Muslim who
lives in Austria and shows his devoted respect for the security of others
despite the danger that he may face and regardless of his religion and
identity. While the second indicates the seriousness and severity of the
measures taken against the Muslim community, to the point of questioning their
loyalty and the sincerity of their feeling of belonging and giving to the
According to the Austrian Interior Minister Karl Nihamer:
"The security operation launched by the police aims to cut off the roots
of political Islam", indicating that the issue is related to a campaign
linked to a political position or religious orientation, and has nothing to do
with specific legal violations.
The raid appeared to be politically motivated and mired
in many human rights violations.
Security operations directed against religious belief or
political orientation constitute a serious violation of the right to freedom of
belief and freedom of opinion and expression, which is guaranteed by the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil
and Political Rights, as well as Austrian domestic laws that guarantee freedom
of belief and expression.
These practices constitute a violation of the freedom of
expression, embrace, and thinking, and impose a security force to arouse
suspicion and intimidation from practices prescribed by law. The political
orientations to dissolve associations or institutions and close mosques,
without real legal justifications, are considered a form of collective
punishment, and political exploitation of terrorist incidents.
Seventh: The fears that (witness) expresses about the
Austrian government's actions:
1. The decline in public
freedoms and human rights in Austria.
2. Collective punishment
of certain groups because of belief or suspicion of belonging to organizations
3. Racial discrimination
against Muslims, especially after the far - right came to power.
4. Attribution of false
accusations as part of a plan to fight political activists supporting the
Palestinian cause under the broad name of political Islam.
5. Endangering the lives
of some activists.
6. Disruption of
activists' economic life and social activities.
7. The direct negative
impact on marginalized social groups that used to benefit from the benefits of
closed institutions, especially those under occupation or refugees.
The Palestinian Association for Human Rights (witness)
praises the Austrian Constitutional Court's abolition of a law banning the veil
and considering it unconstitutional, and the court said that the law violates
the rights of religious freedom and leads to the marginalization of Muslim
(Witness) concludes from the
information contained in its report that the Austrian government's procedures
toward Muslims amount to "collective punishment" and that there are
systematic violations of human rights aimed at politically motivated
intimidation, and presents the most important conclusions within the following
1. If there is a common
denominator among all those targeted by the raid campaign, it is that they all
campaigned for humanitarian causes, especially the Palestinian cause.
2. It is unfair for the
Austrian authorities to consider that any person who expresses support for
Palestinian rights or works to alleviate the suffering of Palestinian refugees,
or provides shelter or clothing to Palestinian orphans, must be a supporter of
any political ideology or political party and be seen later as a suspect.
3.The raids against Muslims in Austria were punctuated by
grave violations of political grounds, and encroachment on rights guaranteed by
international and local laws.
4. There is no
connection between the Austrian youth terrorist operation on 2/11/2020 and the
campaign of raids and arrests that the Austrian authorities carried out on
5. These practices
constitute a violation of the freedom of expression, embrace and thinking, and
impose a security force to arouse suspicion and intimidation from practices
prescribed by law.
6. There is a concern
for the Muslim communities in Europe, especially the Palestinian community that
advocates for their cause.
While the Palestinian Association for Human Rights
(witness) strongly rejects any terrorist attacks and affirms its full
solidarity with the victims, it condemns any attempt to exploit this to commit
grave violations of a discriminatory nature against specific groups on the
grounds of religion, affiliation, or ideological belief. From here, it calls
1. Preserving the human and human rights values
that Austria enjoyed over the past years.
2. The Austrian
authorities to review procedures and decisions that considered as systematic
violations of the rights of Muslim groups in Austrian society.
3. Resorting to the
Austrian courts and the Supreme Court, as well as to the European Court of
4. Carrying out a
large-scale human rights campaign to confront the far - right and networking
with the political, social, and cultural components of Austrian society.
international and human rights organizations to urgently intervene with the
Austrian authorities to retract the procedures under the heading of the political Islam
6. Inviting the media to
shed light on the reality of Muslims, their bright aspects, and their treatment
in their societies.
Beirut, December 23, 2020
Palestinian Association for Human Rights (witness)