September 7, 2021
Criminal charges against the whistleblower whose leak of the “Ibizagate” video took down Austria’s government in 2019 will discourage other informants and may breach media freedoms, multiple NGOs argued in a joint statement released on Tuesday.
Fifteen Austrian and international organizations, including Reporters Without Borders, Amnesty International and the Centre for Investigative Journalism, expressing “considerable concerns” over the trial of Julian Hessenthaler that “the investigations are based on partly fabricated allegations.” Hessenthaler’s trial is due to begin on Wednesday.
A court last week found former Austrian Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache, the ex-leader of the far-right Freedom Party, guilty of corruption and sentenced him to 15 months in prison.
The scandal began when German media published a secret recording of Strache on the Spanish resort island of Ibiza, taken just before Austria’s 2017 parliamentary election, in which Strache appeared to offer to trade government contracts for campaign help from a woman he believed was the niece of a Russian oligarch. The encounter appeared to be a trap for Strache. Hessenthaler filmed the video and shared it with the German media. He was subsequently arrested in Germany and extradited to Austria to face multiple charges, including falsifying documents related to the video and drugs charges.
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