Austria Plans Indefinite Detention for Terror Convicts

November 11, 2020 Updated: November 11, 2020

The Austrian government has proposed to allow courts to jail those convicted of terrorism-related offences for as long as they are deemed a threat.

“If a mentally abnormal criminal can be locked up for life because he is a threat, then a terrorist who poses a threat can be locked up for life,” Austria’s conservative Chancellor Sebastian Kurz told a news conference on Wednesday.

The government proposal comes nine days after a deadly Islamic terrorist attack on the capital Vienna.

Austria terror
A member of a special police unit stands guard near the site of a terrorist attack in Vienna, Austria, on Nov. 4, 2020. (Joe Klamar/AFP via Getty Images)

On Nov. 2, Kujtim Fejzulai, a 20-year-old dual citizen of Austria and North Macedonia, fired at crowds at six different locations in the Austrian capital, killing an elderly man, an elderly woman, a young passer-by, and a waitress, and wounding 22 others, before he was shot dead by police.

It was the first such deadly terror attack in a generation in the central European country, which is a neutral country. The ISIS terrorist group claimed responsibility for the atrocity.

Hundreds of people traveled from Austria to the Middle East, seeking to join ISIS in Syria or Iraq. Kurz said there are currently more than 150 “foreign terrorist fighters” in Austria, some of whom are in prison. In addition, more than 100 have yet to return to Austria.

Vienna terror
A woman lights a candle at a makeshift memorial at the scene of Monday’s terror attack in Vienna, Austria, on Nov. 5, 2020. (Thomas Kronsteiner/Getty Images)

The Austrian government has acknowledged that “intolerable mistakes were made” in the handling of intelligence related to the Vienna attacker.

Fejzulai traveled to Afghanistan in August 2018 to join the ISIS terrorist group, but was turned back because he had no visa. The next month, he traveled to Turkey hoping to enter Syria to join ISIS, but was detained and held for months by Turkey before being returned to Austria in January 2019, where he was arrested at the airport.

Fejzulai was sentenced to 22 months in jail in April 2019 for attempting to join ISIS, but was released early in December due to his young age.

The 20-year-old had “perfectly” hoodwinked the system, which was intended to reintegrate jihadists into society, Austrian Interior Minister Karl Nehammer said last week.

The authorities also admitted that months before the attack in Vienna they received warning from Slovakia that the gunman had been trying to buy ammunition, but they failed to act on it.

Several officials have been temporarily removed from their posts while an investigation was carried out.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.