Life for racist letter bomber

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AN AUSTRIAN neo-fascist was sentenced to life in prison yesterday after killing four people and maiming several more.

Franz Fuchs, 49, said he was a member of the Bajuvarian Liberation Army which, he claimed, wants to reunite German-speaking peoples in Bavaria, the Alps and along the Danube.

He was found guilty by a court in Graz, eastern Austria, on all counts, including four murders and a dozen cases of causing grievous bodily harm with bombs, mostly hidden in letters. Court psychiatrists said he was a loner and the BLA was a figment of his imagination.

In February 1995, Fuchs, a reclusive former engineer, planted a pipe bomb that killed four gypsies in eastern Austria. He was responsible for 28 further bomb attacks, but his most prominent victim was Helmut Zilk, a former mayor of Vienna who was outspoken in his support for refugees and ethnic minorities. Mr Zilk lost his left hand in one explosion.

Fuchs lost two fingers when a letter bomb went off at his home in December 1993 and in 1997 he lost both his hands when another bomb exploded just before his arrest in his home town of Gralla, 140 miles south-west of Vienna.

He was banned from the courtroom during most of his trial after shouting racist slogans whenever he appeared in the dock. On Tuesday he yelled: "Long live the Bajuvarian Liberation Army. Long live the Germanic ethnic group."

He will serve his sentence in a prison for the mentally disturbed.

The verdict on Fuchs comes after the Austrian far-right received its biggest electoral boost for years, with the xenophobic Freedom Party winning 42.1 per cent of the vote in the province of Carinthia last Sunday. The party's leader, Joerg Haider, who once praised Hitler's employment policies, is now the front-runner for the post of regional governor.