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Austria’s Acquittal of Nazi General Debated in Belgian Senate

February 2, 1966
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

A Belgian Senator suggested in Parliament today that Belgium should sever diplomatic relations with Austria to express its resentment over the acquittal last month by a Vienna court of Robert Jan Verbelen, a former SS General, who was sentenced to death in absentia by a Belgian military tribunal for war crimes.

Sen. Charles Moureaux suggested that action to Foreign Minister Paul Henri-Spaak, in stressing that verbal protests were inadequate and asking the Foreign Minister what further steps he intended to take about the acquittal. The Senator called the verdict an indication of the revival of Nazism in Austria and an insult to Belgian justice.

Verbelen, who had served as deputy to Rexist leader Leon DeGrelle during the German occupation, fled after the war and turned up in Vienna where he acquired Austrian citizenship. Austrian officials rejected Belgian requests for Verbelen’s extradition on grounds of his citizenship but eventually arrested him and tried him on charges of terroristic acts. The Vienna court acquitted him on grounds he was “only following orders” and a wave of resentment swept through Belgium.

The Foreign Minister said in his reply that the Belgian Government had taken a number of steps to inform the Austrian Government of the widespread hostility both in the Government and among the Belgian people over the verdict. He said that because of the separation of powers, the Austrian Government was powerless against judiciary decisions. He added he felt that severance of diplomatic relations would serve no purpose.

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