VIENNA (Feb. 24)
The Austrian Parliament unanimously adopted an amendment to the penal code that will make it easier for the authorities to enforce laws against the dissemination of neo-Nazi and anti-Semitic propaganda.
Existing laws provide for stiff penalties. Fines for neo-Nazi activities are high and the minimum prison sentence is 10 years if convicted. But precisely for those reasons, juries have been reluctant to bring in a guilty verdict, especially if the accused are juveniles, as many arrested for distributing Nazi propaganda are.
Meanwhile, high school teachers in Vienna and in the provincial capitals have complained of the recent flood of racist and anti-Jewish leaflets spread by far rightwing groups. Under the amended law, the police, not the courts, will fine violators. The police, moreover, no longer need a court order to confiscate neo-Nazi material to present in evidence.
The amendment was supported by the ruling of the Supreme Constitutional Court last November that all public officials must take into account the anti-Nazi laws in reaching decisions. That ruling was aimed at the candidacy of neo-Nazi groups in public elections, and especially elections to student bodies at Austrian universities.