Oberwart bomber sentenced in Austria

On March 10, a court in the Austrian city of Graz sentenced Mr Franz Fuchs to life imprisonment for his role in a bombing campaign which included planting a pipe bomb which killed four Roma in Oberwart, Burgenland County, Austria, in February 1995 (see ERRC Country Report Divide and Deport: Roma and Sinti in Austria; "Snapshots from around Europe", Roma Rights, Winter 1998). Mr Fuchs also allegedly sent a series of letter bombs which injured more than a dozen people in Germany and Austria between December 1993 and December 1995. The bombing campaign targeted ethnic minorities, especially Roma, and public figures sympathetic to minorities and foreigners. Mr Fuchs is believed to have been responsible altogether for some twenty-eight explosive devices including twenty-three letter bombs. Mr Fuchs was discovered by chance on October 1, 1997, at a border crossing to Slovenia near his home town of Gralla, Steirmark County, when a bomb he was holding went off. He lost both arms from the elbow down in the explosion.

Prosecutors say the 49-year-old former engineer acted on his own and was the sole member of a secret right-wing organisation called the Bavarian Liberation Army (Bajuwarische Befreiungsarmee) that claimed responsibility for some of the attacks. No charges of racial motivation were brought against Mr Fuchs. The critical premonitions of the German weekly Freitag on January 29, 1999, that Fuchs "will not be considered a [...] racist xenophobe, but will be treated as a psychologically unbalanced lone actor" were therefore substantiated by the language of the verdict.

In other Austrian news, according to the daily Der Standard, an administrative court in Vienna ruled on September 8, 1998, that "adult foreigners, as well as Roma, should be addressed with the polite 'Sie' form by public officials, in the same way as Austrian nationals". This decision overturned an initial ruling by a lower court to reject the complaint of a foreigner who had been addressed informally by security officers during a routine check.

(Der Standard, Freitag, Romnews).

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