A Litmus Test of Free Speech

The following article from Austria is an example of what I have termed the Screaming Nazi Heeber-Jeebers. This case, however, is more than just social ostracism or media hysteria: the stigmatized victim lost his basic right to travel outside the country.

Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff sends this introduction to the case:

Gottfried Küssel is not a sympathetic man. He is a convicted neo-Nazi who appears to be a true believer in National Socialism.

However, he is now a free man, having served his sentence. And as a free man he has a right to travel, which entails owning a passport. So far, so logical. Not in the Republic of Austria, governed by a center-left coalition that has been going after anything and anyone resembling a right-of-center political view for the past four years. Mind you, there are no definitions of what is allowed to be uttered in the public sphere, and one only knows after the fact that one shouldn’t have said “that”, whatever “that” is. Free speech certainly looks different.

Gottfried Küssel has now decided he wants to travel, and applied for a passport, which was denied by the authority citing a perceived “security threat” emanating from Küssel. The security threat was not explained further, other than referring to Küssel’s attendance at Covid rallies, where “conspiracy theories and anti-Semitic stories” were propagated, and his being a critic of the government and still “part of a right-wing network.” This should make freedom-lovers shudder for the following reasons:

  • Küssel is denied a passport for crimes yet to be committed, for words yet to be uttered. How is this rationale considered worthy in a liberal democracy?
  • Küssel is denied the right to travel because he attended a rally. He has the right to protest, just like everybody else in a liberal democracy. This is called freedom of assembly, guaranteed by numerous human rights conventions.
  • Küssel merely attended the rallies. He apparently never uttered a word. How is this a reason worthy of denying the right to travel?
  • Küssel was critical of a government that has denied a substantial part of the population their human rights. How is denouncing the government’s rules worthy of denying a passport?

Finally, if the government can easily deny Mr. Küssel, a law-abiding citizen, a passport simply because he “might endanger” the “internal and external” security of Austria, it can happen to you and me. This is how it starts. This is a warning.

You might wonder why I defend Mr. Küssel, whose political beliefs are abhorrent to me. The answer is simple: Mr. Küssel’s case can be considered a litmus test of free speech: you may not like what Mr. Küssel has to say or what he stands for, but he must have the right to say whatever he has to say. It’s not easy to be a free speech activist as it entails defending the indefensible. But it must be done to preserve the right to free speech.

Many thanks to Hellequin GB for translating this article from OE24. The translator’s comments are in square brackets:

The city of Vienna does not give Gottfried Küssel a passport

MA 62 fears that convicted right-wing extremists could endanger Austria’s internal or external security abroad

The city of Vienna refuses to issue Gottfried Küssel a passport. The passport authority relies on a provision in the Passport Act, which stipulates that an applicant for a passport must be refused the document if it can be assumed that a stay abroad would endanger Austria’s internal or external security. For the lawyer Michael Dohr, Küssel’s legal representative, this justification is outrageous. He wants to fight the decision.

Küssel applied for a passport from MA 62 [Registration Office] in mid-August of 2023. In connection with his last of a total of three convictions for National Socialist recidivism, his passport and identity card were confiscated in the summer of 2016. The Administrative Court (VwGH) later confirmed this decision. When Küssel — a key figure in the neo-Nazi scene in German-speaking countries — was released from prison in January 2019 after serving seven years and nine months in prison, he had no opportunity to travel abroad legally.

Security of Austria [And I’m pretty sure that importing millions of hostile Muslims without passports is good for security.]

From the point of view of MA 62, nothing will change for the time being. The authority not only points to the passport applicant’s tarnished past, which suggests a threat to the security of the republic if he were to be allowed to travel abroad. In addition, the passport authority obtained a statement from the Directorate of State Security and Intelligence (DSN). [Directorate of State Security? Sounds like something from the time of the TERROR in France 200+ years ago.] It initially states that since spring 2020, Küssel has taken part in numerous events critical of the government, particularly those aimed at the Covid-19 measures. In particular he appeared at demonstrations in Eisenstadt as a “declarant and person in charge”: “At these rallies, among other things, conspiracy theories and anti-Semitic stories were propagated.”

In addition, Küssel coordinated with other organizers of anti-Covid-19 protests, whereby “violent actions were also considered or propagated,” the DSN notes. Küssel is also active on the Internet and in social media and stands out as a critic of the government and with right-wing radical views, “which, however, have not yet resulted in any complaints under the StGB (penal code, note) or VG (prohibition law, which makes National Socialist recidivism punishable. Annotation)”. The fact that the man, who has been convicted several times in this line, is still part of a right-wing network is undisputed, at least according to the DSN: “Finally, it should be noted that Küssel has demonstrably maintained contacts with other people from the Austrian right-wing extremist scene over the last few years (especially since the spring of 2020).”

Legal representative wants to fight against it

Küssel’s legal representative Michael Dohr counters that the now-65-year-old has behaved well since his release: “He has experienced an intensive lifestyle and has been a law-abiding Austrian citizen for years now.” Küssel is therefore entitled to a passport “like all of his fellow citizens”. The fact that he was critical of the government because of the Covid-19 measures is not in itself cause “to deny a law-abiding citizen the issuance of an ordinary passport”. At no time did Küssel propagate violent actions and he was not involved in the considerations of opponents of the measures. Rather, “a peaceful approach is particularly important to Küssel,” emphasizes Dohr, who also assures that his client uses the Internet “exclusively within the framework of the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression.”

Dohr confirmed to the APA that he would continue to campaign for a passport for Küssel, who has recently become an ASVG [social insurance] pensioner. An attitude that is merely critical of the government should not be suitable for denying someone a travel document: “Otherwise we would have authoritarian conditions, which fortunately are not to be expected in a democratic republic.” [Where has this lawyer been living for these last few years?]

Afterword from the translator:

The hypocrisy of the Austrian government is not even shocking any longer. On the one hand they let in millions of hostiles from Islamic countries who throw their passports away so that they can’t be checked up on, then they give them as a reward free housing, food and health care, squeezed from the hard-working Austrians via excessive taxation. Then, as a “thank you”, these piles of camel manure perpetrate all kinds of crimes against the native population with near impunity. But a native Austrian cannot express his ideology, no matter how distasteful that ideology is, or simply criticize the ruling puppeticians’ ideology, for then that person becomes a persona non grata and is denied his or her basic human right. A human right they happily grant anyone who is a real existential threat to Austria and its native population. Go figure.


 Baron Bodissey

EDITORS NOTE: This Gates of Vienna column is republished with permission. ©All rights reserved.

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