Library of Congress

Law Library of Congress

The Library of Congress > Law Library > News & Events > Global Legal Monitor

Austria: Terrorism Trial

(Mar. 2, 2008) On March 3, 2008, the trial of two suspected terrorists began in the Regional Court of Vienna. The accused were spouses who were Austrian citizens of Arab ethnicity, and they were charged with aiding and abetting al Qaeda. The accused woman appeared in court dressed in a "burqa" that hid her face and head, leaving only an opening for the eyes. After she had refused to show her face, the presiding judge removed her from the courtroom and proceeded with the trial in her absence, on the grounds that the court needed to see her face in order to find the truth (Wien: Terror-Prozess beginnt mit Schleier-Debatte, DIE PRESSE, Mar 3, 2008). The legal provision justifying this court order was section 234 of the Austrian Code of Criminal Procedure (STRAFPROZESSORDNUNG, BUNDESGESETZBLATT [OFFICIAL LAW GAZETTE of Austria] No. 1975/631), which allows the judge to remove a disorderly defendant from the trial and to try him in absentia. The case is one of first impression for Austria and it juxtaposes defendant's rights of religious expression and possibly also the right to remain silent with the court's duty to find the truth (Ein konflikttr├Ąchtiges Szenario, DIE PRESSE, Mar. 3, 2008.)