I reported last month on the conviction of Susanne Winter, an Austrian politician and member of Parliament for the FPÖ. Her crime was “incitement”, based on comments she made about Muslims and Islam.
One of our readers has been researching Ms. Winter’s case, and sent us the following report. First, his explanation of what he found:
After prowling around in vain to find the actual wording of the legal accusations made against Susanne winters, — and hoping to find a record of her trial — I stumbled upon this testimony from “Zwischenrufer”, who was actually present in the courtroom. Zwischenrufer’s summary of the proceedings is very much to the point, and due to the overall importance of the trial I decided to translate parts of his post. Especially because it might give some hints as to what they have in store for Mr. Wilders.
Please excuse any inaccuracies and errors; neither English nor German is my mother tongue.
And now our reader’s translation of Zwischenrufer, which he highly recommends:
…In his first speech, Winter’s attorney argued on the basis of books by Henryk Broder and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. He pointed out that Hirsi Ali in one of her books had used a wording about the prophet Muhammad which is almost identical to the one for which Susanne Winter now stands trial. He also spoke about the numerous warnings his legal office had received “not to take it up with the Muslims”, and the various threats against Susanne Winter. As expected Susanne Winter pleaded “not guilty”.
…Apart from the well-known speech made at the new years rally of FPÖ on 13.01.2008 in Graz… the prosecutor also argued on the basis of some statements she had made in defense of her son where she apparently spoke of “animal brothels”. Susanne Winter repeatedly denied ever having said such a thing and informed the court about certain family disputes triggered by the inconsiderate remarks of her son.
[As I understand it, Susanne’s son (also FPÖ) had on television vented the idea of “putting out sheep in the Grazer Stadtpark in order to avoid further rapes by Muslim immigrants” (presumably a joke, but for which he in the mean time has been convicted). In an interview Winters defended him by saying that they had “animal brothels” in that part of the world].
The prosecutor called five witnesses, of which one was a member of the Green Party, another a socialist, and at last a young girl who apparently had lost her memory. All five witnesses made contradictory statements with regard to which country (city) Susanne Winter presumably had referred to as an example of already existing “animal brothels”. Norway, Hamburg, Oslo, Turkey, or was it Saudi Arabia? On account of the lack of evidence Susanne Winter was on THIS POINT freed of all charges.
“The judge took his time while questioning the defendant, and grilled her each time her answers did not sit right with his questions Any reference to Islam and the prophet was dismissed as historical, and irrelevant….“
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When finally the video recording from the new year’s rally was screened I was surprised to see that the remarks for which she is accused in part wasn’t even made by herself! For instance the rhetorical question posed in the introduction to her speech: “Is all that which nowadays is called religion, really a religion?” The judge interpreted this to mean that Winter had stated that Islam wasn’t a religion at all. But the film clearly showed that this was not the case, since Winter makes a distinction between the religious and totalitarian aspect of Islam [and hence accepted part of it as religion] This inherent contradiction was to my great surprise not used in her defense by herself or her lawyer….
The final address of the prosecution was gob-smacking. And I would like to emphasize that I have attended many political trials before… But never have I heard such a politicized address by a public prosecutor. The prosecutor Redtenbacher judged Winter’s statements by and large politically and not according to the letter of the law. With outbursts against the appeal of certain parties to xenophobic voters, demanding from the judge a severe and deterring verdict, of a “generally pre-emptive stature” in order to draw a line in the sand. especially before the coming elections in Vienna, because the parties needed to be told what they could and could not propagate.… Say what? Since when do judges and public prosecutors decide what a legal democratic party can say during their campaign?
All in all, I would say that I was surprised in many ways by this trial. I did not expect to see the accused so utterly unprepared. Sometimes it seemed as if she did not realize the importance of this case. And in spite of being an attorney herself she was not able to give an adequate defense. At times she even seemed clueless and intellectually challenged. Her lawyer gave her no support during her questioning.
The full-scale political argument of the public prosecutor was in my opinion misplaced, democratically dishonoring, and scandalous. Public prosecutors in Austria should keep their political opinions to themselves. Apart from that I find it unacceptable that the emotions of a certain religious group outweigh freedom of speech. To oppose this was the task of the defense. This was the reason for the importance of the trial.
Susanne Winter has in my opinion done a great disservice to the critical stance against religion in general and Islam in particular, Her stupid populist statements and her inability to argue them could have serious democratic consequences…
(Cross-posted at IFPS.)