The Austrian cabinet headed by Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has agreed to begin crackdown on extremism and implement a wide range of anti-terrorism measures after a deadly terrorist attack by an Islamic extremist took place in Vienna earlier this month.
The cabinet proposals include life sentence for individuals convicted of terrorism charges, criminalising political extremism driven by religion, electronic surveillance of people convicted of terrorism charges after release, and revoking Austrian citizenship of dual nationals found guilty of terror charges.
Targeting the terror suspects and the ideology driving them, Chancellor Kurz said the proposals will be brought before the parliament next month for a vote.
This comes after four people were killed and 20 others were injured in a terrorist attack carried out by an ISIS sympathiser in Vienna earlier this month.
Austrain authorities identified the attacker as 20-year-old Kujtim Fejzulai, a dual national of Austria and North Macedonia who was previously convicted for trying to join ISIS in Syria and had been given early release in December last year.
“We will create a criminal offence called ‘political Islam’ in order to be able to take action against those who are not terrorists themselves, but who create the breeding ground for them,” Kurz tweeted after the Cabinet meeting.
“Especially those who have already served a prison sentence can pose a massive threat to our security. This is a major intervention, but in my view a necessary step to minimize the threat risk,” Kurz added.
An investigation has been launched into why the Austrian authorities did not have Fejzulai under observation, despite being tipped off by Slovakian intelligence that he had tried to purchase arms and ammunition at a shop in Bratislava in July.
Austria’s minister for culture, Susanne Raab, said the new measures were aimed at those who are opposed to “our values” and want “to divide our society,” not at Islam as a religion or the many Muslims who practice it peacefully.
“This clear separation between extremist Islamism and the religion is very important,” Raab said.
The attack in Vienna came after a Tunisian man fatally stabbed three people in Nice, France, and an 18-year-old Chechen refugee beheaded a teacher in Paris after the teacher showed drawings of Prophet Mohammed to his students in a freedom of speech class.