April 23rd, 2024

A judge convicts former Austrian leader Sebastian Kurz of making false statements

By The Associated Press on February 23, 2024.

Former Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz appears at court for the expected verdict of his trial in Vienna, Austria, Friday, Feb.23, 2024. Kurz is charged with having allegedly making false statements to a parliamentary inquiry into alleged corruption in his first government. (AP Photo/Heinz-Peter Bader)

VIENNA (AP) – Former Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz was convicted Friday of making false statements to a parliamentary inquiry into alleged corruption in his first government. He was given an eight-month suspended sentence.

The verdict at the Vienna criminal court followed a four-month trial. The case marked the first time in more than 30 years that a former Austrian chancellor had stood trial.

The case centered on Kurz’s testimony to an inquiry that focused on the coalition he led from 2017 until its collapse in 2019. Prosecutors accused the 37-year-old of having given false evidence in June 2020 regarding his role in the setting up of a holding company, OeBAG, which administers the state’s role in some companies, and the appointment of his former close confidant Thomas Schmid to its leadership.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

VIENNA (AP) – A Vienna court is likely to deliver its verdict on Friday in the trial of former Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who is charged with making false statements to a parliamentary inquiry into alleged corruption in his first government.

Once a rising star among conservatives in Europe, Kurz resigned in 2021 after a separate corruption probe opened and has since left politics. However, his Austrian People’s Party continues to lead the government under current Chancellor Karl Nehammer. The party faces a national election this year and is currently trailing in the polls.

Kurz, who denies the charge, could face up to three years in prison if convicted. The trial, which opened in October, centers on Kurz’s testimony to an inquiry that focused on the coalition he led from 2017, when the conservative People’s Party formed a government with the far-right Freedom Party, until its collapse in 2019.

Prosecutors accuse the 37-year-old of having given false evidence in June 2020 regarding his role in the setting up of a holding company, OeBAG, which administers the state’s role in some companies, and the appointment of his former close confidant Thomas Schmid to its leadership.

In their indictment, which wasn’t released to the public but was obtained by The Associated Press, prosecutors reference potentially incriminating chat messages found on Schmid’s phone. Schmid, who is cooperating with prosecutors, testified extensively.

Kurz has said the investigation was influenced by politics.

The case marks the first time in more than 30 years that a former Austrian chancellor has stood trial.

Kurz rose to power with an anti-immigration platform and was only 31 when he became the leader of the People’s Party and then chancellor in 2017.

Kurz pulled the plug on his first government after a video surfaced that showed the vice chancellor and Freedom Party leader at the time, Heinz-Christian Strache, appearing to offer favors to a purported Russian investor.

A few months later, Kurz returned to power in a new coalition with the environmentalist Greens in early 2020, but resigned in October 2021. The Greens had demanded his replacement after prosecutors announced that he was a target of a second investigation into suspected bribery and breach of trust. Kurz also denied any wrongdoing in that case.

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