Sidewalk counseling effectively criminalized in Austria after pro-life appeal rejected
GRAZ, Austria, November 4, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A judge in Graz has rejected an appeal made by four members of an Austria pro-life group against their conviction and resulting fines for publicly witnessing to the value of human life in front of an abortion facility in Graz last April. The rejection effectively criminalizes sidewalk counseling in front of Austrian abortion mills.
The pro-lifers, including Dietmar Fischer, the head of the Austrian branch of Human Life International (HLI) were convicted last July of “stalking” the resident abortionist and given fines totaling €8490 EUR, or about $12,000 USD.
Caroline List, the judge presiding over the appeals synod, said that sidewalk counseling on public ground amounted to a “witch hunt” against the abortion doctor, Johannes Hanfstingl, reported Gloria.tv.
The judge reportedly rejected the appeal despite the testimony from the witnesses of the prosecution that no one had actually been accosted by members of the pro-life group. One witness did testify that she had once been directly but “politely” approached by the group.
Judge List did not allow the Pro-life group to make a further appeal.
Fischer, a 2010 recipient of the Cardinal von Galen Award for outstanding service in defence of innocent human life, said he was “horrified” by the judge’s verdict, calling it a “scandal and purely political.”
“It was mandated by the minister of Justice. Judge Caroline List admitted that her verdict was about a more ample [larger] legal question. It is about whether Pro-lifers will be able to stand in front of clinics and to offer help or not.”
“The verdict of Judge Caroline List intends to stop this,” said Fischer as he pointed to the fact that the Austrian branch of Human Life International has saved the lives of more than 15,000 children.
The pro-life group still has the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France as its last resort for justice. Gloria.tv has learned that the group plans on pursuing this option.