The Austrian government plans to tighten up laws on sedition and the display of provocative imagery in order to tackle Isis jihadists and their supporters within Austria, The Local has reported. Under the range of new measures, dual citizens who engage in combat will lose their Austrian passport, and children will not be allowed to leave the country without the express permission of their parents or guardians.
The measures were announced by Vice Chancellor Reinhold Mitterlehner, interior minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner and justice minister Wolfgang Brandstetter at a press conference on Monday morning. All three are members of the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP).
Also included in the package will be an extension to Austria’s Badges Act 1960, which prohibits the ownership of Nazi symbols, flags, uniforms and insignia from banned organisations. A spokesman for Mikl-Leitner last week said that only minor changes were needed to the Act in order to extend its application to Isis imagery. Sentencing for the new crime is also still to be decided upon.
Germany has also banned the use of all Isis symbols and activities. The move was announced by defence minister Thomas de Mazière at a press conference on Friday morning.
“The terror organisation Islamic State is a threat to public safety in Germany as well,” de Mazière said. “We are resolutely confronting this threat today.
“Today’s ban is directed solely against terrorists who abuse religion for their criminal goals,” he added. “Germany is a well-fortified democracy, there’s no place here for a terrorist organisation which opposes the constitutional order as well as the notion of international understanding.”
The new Austrian laws will only be applied if ten or fewer people are involved.
The move to prevent minors from leaving the country comes just days after two Austrian teenagers, aged 16 and 15 absconded to Syria from Vienna, telling their parents “Don’t look for us. We will serve Allah, and we will die for him.”
Both girls have married Chechen fighters since arriving in Syria, and are thought to already be pregnant by the men. 16 year old Samra was thought to have been killed, but has since contacted friends on messaging app WhatsApp to let them know that she is still alive. Both girls are of Bosnian origin.
Last week two more teenagers, aged 14 and 15, were picked up by police in the southern city of Graz “with full suitcases… intending to go to Syria,” according to the Austrian interior ministry. The girls were apprehended when the alarm was raised by the mother of a third girl who was suspicious as to why her daughter was carrying so much luggage.