Following Three Acquittals, Neo-nazi Convicted in Austria

An Austrian provincial court on Monday sentenced Walter Ochensberger to three years’ imprisonment for neo-Nazi activities, provoking an outburst from the startled defendant, who had been acquitted of the same charges at three previous trials.

Ochensberger publishes a newsletter called Sieg (Victory), which he distributes mainly outside of schools. It alleges that the Holocaust never occurred, that gas chambers never existed and that all of the “horrors the Allies showed were fabricated after the war.”

Nevertheless, it took nearly nine hours of deliberations before a jury in Feldkirch, a town near the Swiss border, convicted the neo-Nazi.

The problem in this and the earlier trials was the jury’s reluctance to impose the mandatory five-year prison sentence. Ochensberger’s conviction was obtained only because the prosecutor agreed to a sentence below the judicial minimum.

Nevertheless, Ochensberger, who apparently had expected another acquittal, protested loudly. “I will not accept this sentence,” he shouted as he was being removed from the courtroom.

The trial has renewed the political debate here over existing laws.

The Christian Conservative Party would like to see the minimum sentence for neo-Nazi offenses lowered so it could be applied more often.

The Social Democrats fear that would convey a message that such crimes are regarded in Austria as little more than misdemeanors.

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