A Viennese court has sentenced a leading neo-Nazi figure in Austria to nine years in prison for his role in launching an extreme-right website that glorifies Nazism.
Gottfried Kussel, 54, is “a leading figure in the extreme-right scene” and had previously been convicted on similar counts, including an 11-year conviction in 1994, said presiding judge, Martina Krainz, announcing the jury’s vote of 5-3 to convict him.
The "Alpen-Donau" discussion platform was taken offline last month after prosecutors in Vienna asked their counterparts in the USA for assistance, as the homepage was run via a server located in the United States, making it impossible for Austrian officials to take action, The Austrian Times reported.
Krainz said the Internet is crucially important for spreading neo-Nazi ideology, which is banned in Austria, and the court had therefore imposed a severe punishment for Kussel, as well as two other defendants who received jail sentences of seven and four-and-a-half years.
Kussel's attorney, Michael Dohr, said he would appeal against the conviction. "I had expected an acquittal because of the very thin evidence. There was only circumstantial evidence, not more," he said in remarks broadcast by Austrian public radio ORF.
According to The Austrian Times, Kussel is also suspected of disguising a facility where neo-Nazis may have met in Vienna by branding the property as a "national organic food store."
Dozens of nationalists and skinheads took to the streets of the German city of Dortmund on Tuesday evening to demonstrate against Kussel’s arrest.
Oskar Deutsch, the leader of the Jewish community in Vienna, said recently that the number of anti-Semitic incidents in the country has nearly doubled over the past year.
Deutsch told the Kurier newspaper that the Jewish community registered 135 such incidents last year, compared to 71 in 2011.