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POLICE

Wind of justice: Austrian man fined for farting on police has sentence reduced on appeal

The 500 fine issued by Vienna police for a "provocative" fart made headlines around the world last year.

People in the Stadt Park in Vienna
JOE KLAMAR / AFP

The Viennese man was given the fine after “letting wind escape loudly” last June, following an identity check by police in a park Der Standard newspaper reports. 

The news made headlines across the world, forcing Vienna police to issue a clarification on social media that “of course no-one will be reported for accidentally ‘letting one go’ once”.

The man had challenged the fine, saying although he had farted, this was a “biological process”, which would have amounted to freedom of expression even if it had been done deliberately. 

The administrative court reduced the penalty from €500 euros to €100 euros, pointing to the man’s lack of a criminal record while saying he only had “average” culpability of the offence

Friends ‘laughed and made jokes’

The Vienna Regional Administrative Court stated in its ruling that the man was on a park bench, when he lifted his buttocks and let the wind escape in a way which was perceived by everyone present.

The man’s friends laughed and joked about the incident.

According to the administrative court, the basic right to freedom of communication is not limited to a certain form of communication, but a statement must also have a certain “communicative content”.

However, this is not the case with “pure body stimuli”, the court said, according to the newspaper report.

Makes state order ‘ridiculous’

It concluded even if it were accepting that farting were to accept an act of communication, the wind would still be a “form of expression that transcends the boundaries of decency”. 

The court added “form of action seems suitable to completely undermine any state order and to make it ridiculous”, according to Der Standard newspaper. 

The paper also features comments from Paul Eberstaller, university assistant at the Juridicum, who says the ruling shows how problematic the offence of decency is, particularly when comparing public and private life. 

“If a private person had been a ‘victim’ in this case, public decency would not be violated. In addition, the authorities would probably not pursue complaints from private individuals. At the same time, legal protection is often lacking in the event of actual problems,” he said. 

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CRIME

Austrian court sentences two accomplices of Vienna jihadist shooter to life in prison

A Vienna court on Wednesday sentenced two men who helped a gunman carry out Austria's first deadly jihadist attack to life in prison as the months-long trial wrapped up.

Austrian court sentences two accomplices of Vienna jihadist shooter to life in prison

Convicted Islamic State group sympathiser Kujtim Fejzulai went on a shooting rampage on November 2, 2020 in downtown Vienna, killing four and wounding 23 others before police shot him dead.

Two years later, six defendants — four Austrians, a Chechen and a Kosovar — stood trial for helping Fejzulai prepare for the shooting, even though they were not directly involved in the deadly attack.

After the jury deliberated for about a dozen hours, the verdicts were pronounced around midnight by the presiding judge.

One man was sentenced to life in prison for “contributing to murder” and another was given the same sentence for participating in terrorist crimes in connection with murder — the trial’s main charge.

Another two men facing the main charge were given prison terms of 19 and 20 years respectively, while the final two of the group were acquitted of it.

But they were found guilty of membership in a terrorist organisation and each was sentenced to a conditional prison term of two years.

To hear the verdicts, the men were led into the crowded courtroom, escorted by armed guards under tight security. Cameras were barred from the room. They remained unfazed upon hearing their sentences.

Throughout the trial their lawyers argued they had barely known Fejzulai and had been unaware of what he intended to do — portraying the evidence as circumstantial, inconclusive or lacking altogether.

The prosecution demanded the maximum penalties for all defendants, stating that evidence painted an unambiguous and very clear picture of the men’s involvement, adding that “such insidious attacks on our values and democracy” would warrant them.

With the help of some of the accused, the gunman — an Austrian citizen whose parents are from North Macedonia — was allegedly able to obtain the weapons and the ammunition needed for the attack, while others provided logistical aid or encouraged Fejzulai.

In 2019, Fejzulai had been convicted and sentenced to 22 months in prison for trying to join the Islamic State group in Syria, before being arrested in Turkey and extradited to Austria.

In the wake of the EU member’s deadliest shooting in decades, the Austrian government and its intelligence service were accused of failing to monitor the Islamist movement in the country.

As a result, Austria adopted a heavily criticised anti-terror law in 2021 that allows for increased surveillance.

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