‘President’ of Austrian anti-state group jailed for 14 years

The 42-year-old woman, named in media reports as Monika Unger, created an organisation called the Staatenbund ("Federation of States") in 2015, which counts around 2,600 members.

'President' of Austrian anti-state group jailed for 14 years
Photo: AFP

She had attempted to “order” the Austrian army to overthrow the government as well as asking for military assistance from Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

The judge in the court in the southern city of Graz justified the heavy penalty, saying it gave a “clear signal that anti-state activities will not be tolerated”.

Unger went on trial along with 13 other members of the movement who were arrested in a wave of arrests in April 2017 involving more than 450 police officers.

Her second-in-command, a 71-year-old former police officer, was also found guilty of inciting high treason and sentenced to 10 years.

Twelve other members were found guilty of “forming an anti-state association” and jailed for up to three years.

The Staatenbund had given some  members “diplomatic passports” as well as selling its own licence plates.

It forbade members from paying taxes to the Austrian state and collected almost 40,000 euros in fees to have property entered in its own “land registry”, assuring that this rendered mortgages on those properties null and void.

Unger admitted that she had tried to arrange the “arrest” and “trial” of elected officials, judges and bank employees in order to replace them with her own administration.

She claimed she was the “victim of an oppressive system”.

The Staatenbund is similar to “sovereign citizen” movements which have alarmed authorities in recent years in Austria and Germany, such as the German “Reichsbuerger” (“Citizens of the Reich”).

Members are drawn from various ideologies, including anarchists, neo-Nazis, and those subscribing to more esoteric beliefs.

In 2017 a Reichsbuerger militant was jailed for life in Germany for killing a policeman and injuring two others during a dawn raid on his house.


Spain drops probe into ex-military WhatsApp ‘kill squad’

Spanish prosecutors have dropped an investigation into messages posted in a WhatsApp group of retired military officers that denounced Spain's left-wing government and discussed shooting political adversaries.

Spain drops probe into ex-military WhatsApp 'kill squad'

The group was made up of high-ranking retired members of the air force with some of the messages leaked in December to the Infolibre news website, sparking public outrage.

The messages focused on the government of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, whose Socialists rule alongside the hard-left Podemos in Spain’s first coalition government since the death of dictator Francisco Franco in 1975.

“I don’t want these scoundrels to lose the elections. No. I want them and all of their offspring to die,” wrote one.

“For them to die, they must be shot and 26 million bullets are needed,” wrote another, referring to the number of people who cast their ballots in favour.

Prosecutors opened their investigation in mid-December after finding the statements were “totally contrary to the constitutional order with veiled references to a military coup”.

But they dropped the probe after concluding the content of the chat did not constitute a hate crime by virtue of the fact it was a private communication.

“Its members ‘freely’ expressed their opinions to the others ‘being confident they were among friends’ without the desire to share the views elsewhere,” the Madrid prosecutors office said.

The remarks constituted “harsh” criticism that fell “within the framework of freedom of expression and opinion,” it said.

The decision is likely to inflame protests that erupted in mid-February over the jailing of a Spanish rapper for tweets found to be glorifying terrorism, a case that has raised concerns over freedom of speech in Spain.

According to Infolibre, some of the chat group also signed a letter by more than 70 former officers blaming the Sanchez government for the “breakdown of national unity” that was sent to Spain’s King Felipe VI in November.

Such remarks echo criticism voiced by Spain’s rightwing and far-right opposition that has denounced the government for courting separatist parties in order to push legislation through parliament where it only holds a minority.