Angry Haider rails against 'reds' as scandal deepens

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Eleven Austrian police officers were suspended from duty yesterday in connection with the country's dirty tricks scandal, while Jörg Haider went on the attack, angrily rebutting allegations that his Freedom Party had used stolen police files to discredit its opponents.

Eleven Austrian police officers were suspended from duty yesterday in connection with the country's dirty tricks scandal, while Jörg Haider went on the attack, angrily rebutting allegations that his Freedom Party had used stolen police files to discredit its opponents.

Erik Buxbaum, the director general of Austria's internal security, announced that the officers were being suspended on suspicion of hacking into the central police computer and passing on information to unauthorised persons.

In parliament, Dieter Böhmdorfer, the Justice Minister and formerly Mr Haider's lawyer, survived a third vote of no confidence in his short career.

Prosecutors in Vienna launched an investigation last Wednesday into claims that Mr Haider's far-right party had obtained personal files of political enemies from corrupt police officers. That allegation had surfaced in a book by Josef Kleindienst, the former head of the police trade union affiliated with the Freedom Party.

Mr Kleindienst admitted he had stolen such files from the police computer and passed them on to the party. The information was allegedly used by Mr Haider's colleagues as ammunition against opponents at trials, news conferences and during public debates.

Casting aspersions on their critics' character has been a favourite Freedom Party tactic, remarked upon even by the European Union's "wise men's" report on Austria. When that failed, lawsuits for libel often followed. It was during one such trial that Mr Böhmdorfer allegedly used material siphoned off the central police computer, which holds personal details of every Austrian.

True to form, Mr Haider was threatening yesterday to sue again, although no writ had been issued against Mr Kleindienst. The targets this time are two Austrian magazines which came out with further allegations at the weekend.

The scandal, Mr Haider told reporters, sprang "from the sick minds of journalists". "We shall create order in the spy state built by the Reds," he vowed.

Mr Haider is among the 18 Freedom Party officials under investigation. He maintains, however, that anything his party has done is done no worse than the Socialists, who allegedly also used their connections at the police to gain privileged information.

In a country where almost all areas of life are carved up between the two established parties, few people would disbelieve that claim. But the Freedom Party, an erstwhile outsider, was supposed to have been different. A great deal of its electoral appeal stemmed from its clean-cut image, which has has now been permanently soiled.

Comments