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Austrian politician probed for publishing hook-nosed banker caricature

(JTA) — Prosecutors in Vienna are examining the recent posting of an allegedly anti-Semitic caricature on Austrian politician Heinz-Christian Strache’s Facebook page.

The page featured a caricature depicting an obese, hook-nosed banker wearing star-shaped cufflinks. Strache leads the rightist FPO, Austrian Freedom Party

"There is no decision yet to start a criminal investigation regarding the publication, but we are looking into it and will decide whether such an investigation should be opened," Thomas Vecsey, a spokesperson for the Vienna Prosecutor’s Office, told JTA. 

If initiated, the investigation would focus on suspicions of hate speech.

Oskar Deutsch, president of the Jewish community of Vienna, in a news release accused Strache of disseminating anti-Semitic, 1940s-style propaganda. The release described the star-shaped cufflinks on the banker’s sleeve as Stars of David.

In response, a posting on Strache’s Facebook page said the cufflinks were diamonds and that one needed to be “fairly paranoid to see a Star of David in that shape.” Interpreting the hook-shaped nose as Jewish “is in fact anti-Semitic, and we reject this,” the post read.

The caricature shows the obese banker eating food that a waiter labeled as “the government” puts before him. An emaciated third character labeled as “the people” sits beside the banker with just a bare bone on his plate. 

Strache and other FPO lawmakers have frequently faced accusations of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.

“The FPO and Strache are experts in deflecting accusations of anti-Semitism,” Ilja Sichrovsky, the Austria-born secretary general of the Muslim Jewish Conference, an interfaith organization, told JTA. “What is certain is that it was insensitive of Strache to place such a caricature in light of Austria’s history with the vilification of Jews in caricatures.”

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