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Date: Thu,  30 Sep 93 22:39 +0200
To: Ken McVay 
Status: RO

Wednesday 29-Sep-93 02:51 PM

background) By Steve Pagani

    VIENNAAustria (Reuter) - Austrian far-right leader Gottfried
Kuessel, regarded as the German-speaking world's top neo-Nazi,
was jailed for 10 years Wednesday in the toughest anti-Nazi
sentence handed down in Austria for 40 years.
    Kuessel, 35, who publicly stated that Adolf Hitler ``was one
of the greatest Germans of all time,'' was convicted of nine out
of 11 charges by an eight-member all-woman jury.
    He was found guilty of setting up a neo-Nazi organization,
the People's Extra-Parliamentary Opposition (VAPO), but
acquitted of saying in a speech that his organization would
attempt to overthrow the Austrian state by force -- considered
to be the most serious charge and which could have doubled his
sentence to 20 years.
    Kuessel, a stocky man with small gold-rimmed glasses, showed
no emotion as the sentence was read out in Vienna's hushed
central criminal court.
    He approached a podium to appeal against the jail term
before being handcuffed and led out of the courtroom by officers
of Vienna's elite police force.
    Kuessel supporters, mostly young men with short-cropped
hair, gave thumbs-up signs as he was taken out of the court
building and bundled into a police van.
    ``This is compeletely ridiculous. Ten years for something he
said and might not have been aware he was saying it,'' one
supporter said outside the court in central Vienna.
    Asked whether he agreed with a statement Kuessel once made
that Austria should one day become part of Germany, he said:
``Which way should Austria go? With Slovakia or Yugoslavia? ...
Germany is the only way.''
    Kuessel, whose organization is believed to be part of
Europe's shadowy network of far-right extremist groups with
links to the United States, was a close friend of Germany's late
neo-Nazi leader Michael Kuehnen.
    Kuessel supporters consider him to have adopted Kuehnen's
mantle after he died of AIDS in April 1991.
    Austrian political analysts said the case was of great
significance to Austria which wanted to show it could be as
tough on neo-Nazis as neighboring Germany, at a time when racist
attacks were on the increase.
    Although anti-foreigner violence has not reached levels in
Germany where it has claimed the lives of at least 28 people in
the last two years, one hostel for foreigners in northern
Austria was torched last year, Jewish graves daubed with
swastikas and ``Foreigners Out'' graffiti scrawled on walls.
    A spokesman at the Vienna court later said Kuessel's jail
sentence was the highest given for [NAZI] activities in Austria
since the last World War II [NAZI] sympathisers were convicted in
the mid-1950s.
    Some 31 people have been found guilty of neo-Nazi activities
in Austria since 1989 and some have been jailed.
    Kuessel was convicted of stating in interviews with American
networks CBS and ABC that no Jews had been killed or gassed in
death camps by Hitler's Third Reich.
    Austria outlaws neo-Nazi organizations and bans the denial
of Auschwitz-like concentration camps.
    Kuessel, who was arrested in January 1992, denied all
charges but was unrepentant during his trial and stuck to a
description of himself as ``a racist in the positive sense.''
    He denied that anything he had said had any bearing on
Austria's sovereignty but considered himself to be German and
believed that Austria was part of German territory.

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