Austria adopts anti-terrorism laws that put Muslim Brotherhood groups in crosshairs

Extremist groups' symbols banned with a €10,000 euro fine for offenders

Armed police stand outside the Vienna State Opera following an attack in November 2020. Getty Images
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Austria has adopted new penalties against the promotion of extremist groups, including those with links to "religiously-motivated crimes", that will ban the symbols of a range of terrorist groups.

The new federal law prohibits the use of symbols representing ISIS, Al Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Grey Wolves, the Kurdish Workers' Party, Hezbollah's military wing, the Croatian fascist movement Ustasha and all other entities that are listed by the EU as terrorist groups.

The authorities also gained powers to exclude people from the vicinity of an environment that contributed to their radicalisation. Companies and institutions face an obligation to submit and verify that their accounting records comply with a ban on domestic financing of extremists. Dual citizens can be stripped of their citizenship and convicted criminals can lose driving licences.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz attends a press conference in Vienna. EPA

The new powers were drawn up in response to an attack in November by an ISIS sympathiser who killed four people in central Vienna.

The interior ministry was strongly criticised for having failed to monitor the Austrian gunman who carried out the attack, despite warnings about his activities.

The authorities knew he had been in contact with Islamist extremists from neighbouring countries and had tried to buy ammunition in Slovakia. The gunman was shot dead by police responding to reports of a shooting spree.

Austria has nine million citizens and one of the highest per capita rates of ISIS sympathisers with an estimated 150 people known to have returned there after fighting for the terrorist organisation in Syria or Iraq.

It also has a long-established Muslim Brotherhood presence. After a surveillance operation that clocked up 21,000 hours, security agents carried out a series of raids under the direction of the Graz Public Prosecutor's Office last year.

Investigators said they were "carrying out investigations against more than 70 suspects and against several associations which are suspected of belonging to and supporting the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas organisations".

During the raids an “enemies list” of opponents of political Islam was found, forcing people into hiding.

Updated: July 08, 2021, 2:18 PM