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Free Speech on Trial in Austria … and Europe
The "hate speech" trial of the Austrian housewife and anti-Islam activist Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff resumed at a Vienna courthouse on January 18, following a two-month break in the hearings. Sabaditsch-Wolff, who has been charged with "incitement of hatred" and "denigrating religious teachings" after giving a series of seminars about the dangers of radical Islam, faces a possible three year prison sentence. Her case, which is eerily similar to the one involving the Dutch politician Geert Wilders, reflects the growing use of lawfare, the malicious use of European courts to silence politically incorrect speech about Islam.
Sabaditsch-Wolff's legal problems began in November 2009, when she presented a three-part seminar about Islam to the Freedom Education Institute, a political academy linked to the Austrian Freedom Party. A glossy left-wing magazine called NEWS — all in capital letters — planted a journalist in the audience to secretly record the first two lectures. Lawyers for the publication then handed the transcripts over to the Viennese public prosecutor's office as evidence of hate speech against Islam, one of the officially recognized religions under Austrian law. Formal charges against Sabaditsch-Wolff were filed in September 2010 and her bench trial, presided by one judge and no jury, began on November 23.
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