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Austrian report Austrian report
by Euro Reporter
2011-10-16 09:12:50
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Austria court clears politician over mosque game

An Austrian court cleared a far-right politician of incitement on Friday, ruling that an online anti-mosque game used in his election campaign did not encourage violence against Muslims in real life. Freedom Party deputy Gerhard Kurzmann used the game in his failed bid to become governor of the south-eastern province of Styria in 2010.  Prosecutors accused him of inciting religious hatred and defaming a religion with the game. The “Bye Bye Mosque” game let players shoot cartoon mosques and Muslims emerging from an idyllic country scene. Judicial authorities forced the Freedom Party to take down the website after the game sparked sharp criticism from Austria’s Social Democrats and Greens, as well as the Islamic and Roman Catholic communities.

“It did not reach the threshold of incitement and I would also say this was not the intention,” Judge Christoph Lichtenberg told the Graz court in remarks carried by the national APA news agency. The prosecutor’s office plans to appeal. The game was developed by the same Swiss public relations firm that created anti-Muslim and anti-immigration campaigns for the rightist Swiss People’s Party. Its creator, Alexander Segert, was also cleared by the court. The Freedom Party, which campaigns on an anti-immigrant platform, said it wanted to start a debate about mosque-building but not encourage people to use violence against Muslims. “The judge has unmistakably determined that the question of whether mosque-building should be banned is being discussed all over Europe and that it is a completely legitimate debate,” the Freedom Party said in a statement.

The Freedom Party is Austria’s biggest opposition party and has been gaining in polls before 2013 elections. At the national level it has been seeking to ban Islamic face veils and mosques with minarets. Less than 2 percent of Styria’s population is Muslim, according to APA, and the province has no mosques with visible minarets. There are around half a million Muslims in Austria, a predominantly Roman Catholic country of 8 million people ruled by a centrist coalition.


Metal workers hold first strike in 25 yrs

Austrian metal workers seeking a 5.5 percent wage increase went on strike on Friday and warned that they would carry out open-ended walkouts next week if a pay dispute was not settled. Round half of the country's 165,000 metal workers have voted to support the strike, the first in the Austrian metal industry for 25 years.

The strikers are targeting 150 businesses in the Alpine country, including specialist steel group Voestalpine. Voestalpine refused to comment on the strikes or wage negotiations. The company's main steel works are based in the northern city of Linz. The group produced around 2 million tonnes of steel in its first quarter to end-June.

"If there is no progress at the weekend then things are going to get really serious on Monday," Rainer Wimmer, the head of industry union Pro-Ge, told the Austria Press Agency. The metal workers say employers must take into account 2.8 percent annual inflation earlier this year and healthy industrial growth. Inflation reached 3.6 percent in September, according to the national definition.


Austrian inflation hits three-year high

Consumer price inflation in Austria hit a three-year high of 3.6 percent in September, up from the year-on-year 3.5 percent recorded in both August and July, official statistics showed on Friday. The figure for August had been revised up from a previous 3.4 percent. The main driving factor last month was an 18-percent year-on-year jump in prices for oil-based products. Without this, inflation would have been 2.8 percent, the national statistics office said.

Compared to August, prices rose 0.4 percent. Using the harmonised index of consumer prices (HICP), used by the European Central Bank as its inflation yardstick, Austrian inflation was 4.0 percent in September, the highest since August 2008 and up from 3.7 percent in August.

Inflation in Germany, Europe's biggest economy, also hit a three-year high in September of 2.6 percent, dampening hopes of a cut in interest rates by the ECB, whose mandate is to keep inflation close to but below 2.0 percent.

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