In autumn 2012 refugees, non-citizens and asylum seekers all over Europe showed increased resistance to the European migration and asylum policies. They organized political strikes in refugee camps, united in protest tent cities and demanded a change of migration policies on numerous demonstrations and protest marches. At this time in Vienna, a group of Somali refugees organized protests in front of the Austrian parliament to call attention to the difficult situation of asylum seekers and migrants in Austria. The connection of several actions of protest led to the formation of the “Refugee Camp” in the Sigmund-Freud-Park – the starting point of this short chronology of events.
24 November, 2012: Protest march of refugees and people in solidarity from the asylum camp in Traiskirchen to Vienna. Setup and move-in to the Refugee-Protest-Camp in the Sigmund-Freud-Park in Vienna.¹
01 January, 2013: Two newly established special task forces (Sonderkommissionen, SOKO) to investigate “Schlepperei” (facilitation/human smuggling) take up their work under the supervision of the Federal Office of Criminal Investigation (Bundeskriminalamt).
28 July, 2013: Ten activists of the Refugee-Protest-Camp, who by that time are living in the “Servitenkloster”, are arrested during a compulsory daily registration at the police.
29 July, 2013: Eight activists are deported to Pakistan despite the imminent danger for them there. The protests against the deportations are widely adopted by the media.
30/31 July, 2013: Several people are arrested and accused of “Schlepperei”, some of them activists from the Refugee-Protest-Camp. The investigative custody, which will last for months, begins. The people held in custody may only be visited under permanent surveillance.
31 July, 2013: House raids in the “Servitenkloster” and private flats.
03 August, 2013: Minister of the Interior, Johanna Mikl-Leitner (ÖVP) claims in an interview with the newspaper “Kurier”, “We know, that this is an organization of smugglers that acted in the most brutal ways. […] They operated extremely inhumane. For example, when there were problems with pregnant women on the smuggling-route, those women were left on the route without any help.”² The statements later turned out to be wrong and were disproved by the state prosecutor’s office.³
December 2013: The state prosecutor’s office in Wiener Neustadt presents the indictment against the eight people. They are accused of being members of a “criminal organization”, which conducted organized “Schlepperei”. One of the accused appeals the indictment, therefore it is temporarily without legal capacity. The permanent surveillance during visits and hence, also the constraint for the detainees and visitors to only talk German or English (the languages understood by the personnel) is canceled.
January/February 2014: After seveval requests two people are released from investigative custody. Prior to this, the rejection of their requests was, amongst others, justified by the assumption that they wouldn’t have enough “social bonds” in Austria or wouldn’t be “integrated well enough”.
29 January 2014: The Higher Regional Court in Vienna confirms the indictment. Hence, it becomes legally effective.
17 March, 2014: The trial starts at the Regional Court in Wiener Neustadt.
27 March, 2014: The case is postponed due to deficits in the indictment files. The six accused, who have still been in custody at that time, get now released.
6 May, 2014: The trial starts again after an interruption of more than one month.
22 July – 8 September, 2014: Again, the case is adjourned for the summer months. At first the trial is scheduled until the 1st of October, but soon it becomes evident that the trial will take more time, in order to listen to the numerous telephone calls, that were recorded during the investigation. The trial is extended until the 4th of December.
10 September, 2014: The prosecutor reads out the modified indictment, after it became clear in the previous months, that the accused were charged repeatedly with acts that are actually identical. Altogether though, the indictment gets even more fuzzy with those modifications. For example the phrase “to Austria” is simply replaced by the phrase “via Austria or another country of the EU”. Still it is all about “unknown smuggled persons”, “unknown offenders” in Hungary and Greece and often unknown amounts of money.
4 December, 2014: After the final speeches of the prosecutor and the lawyers, as well as a seven hour negotiation session of the senate, seven of the eight accused are found guilty short before midnight. Six of the eight are found guilty for acting as part of a criminal association. As usual, the announcement of the judgment is initially only done in German. For the conviction the visitors area of the courtroom is guarded by police, the public audience is being filmed by police at the entrance. During the whole day a rally took place in front of the court, the courtroom was full the entire time. After initial silence, an increasing disquiet erupted, a lot of heckling occurred during the announcement of the judgment.
5 December, 2014: A spontaneous demonstration with about 200 people starts in the evening at the Marcus-Omofuma-Monument in Vienna.
9 December, 2014: Prosecutor Gunda Ebhart brings in appeal and nullification against the judgment. She states as a reason, that “as a consequence of the vocal bashing and protest by the audience during the pronouncement of the judgment the statement of the chairwoman of the senate could not be understood in essential parts […]”. Obviously she tries to blame her possible demand for higher sentences on the audience which showed solidarity. At the latest when the written judgment is finished after three to four months, it will be clear if she keeps her demand or not. By all means she will need different arguments for it. At this point we thank all those, who didn’t just let this verdict happen in silence. Also the defenders announced to bring in appeals and nullifications, the trial will most likely go on.
¹ A timeline of the protest movement to be found here: http://refugeecampvienna.noblogs.org/time-
² Interview in “Kurier” on 3 August, 2013: http://kurier.at/politik/inland/fremdenpolitik-johanna-mikl-leitner-wir-sind-nicht-auslaenderfeindlich/21.450.436
³ Article in “Falter” 32/13: http://www.falter.at/falter/2013/08/06/beinharte-posse/