Austrian minister wants to tighten espionage laws to stop spying against international organizations

BERLIN (AP) – Austria’s justice minister said Thursday that he plans to strengthen the country’s laws on espionage, which are currently strictly prohibited if they are against Austria itself, but not if they target other countries or international organizations.

Justice Minister Alma Zadic’s push to tighten Austria’s laws comes as the arrest of a former Austrian intelligence chief espionage charges for Russia it focuses on espionage activities in the country.

Austria is a member of the European Union with the principles of military neutrality. Its capital, Vienna, houses several UN agencies and other international organizations such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC.

Austria’s criminal law currently states that anyone who “instigates or carries out secret activities against the Republic of Austria or supports espionage in any way” faces between six months and five years in prison. It also prohibits establishing, operating or supporting a “military force” of a “foreign power or superior organization,” which carries a prison sentence of up to two years.

Zadic said in a statement to the Austrian Press Agency that the country has been accused of being an “island of the blessed” because of international intelligence operations and complained that “the lack of law so far has allowed foreign intelligence services to carry out espionage with impunity.” Austria.”

“We want to expand the espionage clauses so that in the future, the authorities will be able to take action against foreign spies not only targeting Austria, but international organizations that are present here such as the UN or friendly countries,” he said.

Zadic is a member of the minority party in Chancellor Karl Nehammer’s governing coalition, the Greens. Interior Minister Gerhard Karner, a member of Nehammer’s Austrian People’s Party, told Oe1 radio that he saw the need for tougher penalties for espionage – and also urged calls for authorities to be allowed to make calls via messengers, which the Greens rejected. .

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