Dramatic shifts in Austrian trials over the Luxor Operation case take place. Just a week after the fatal jihadist terror attack in Vienna in November 2020, operation Luxor has been launched against networks of the Muslim Brotherhood, including arrests and trials of people accused of belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and nearly 100 suspects (persons and associations) have been investigated for terrorist financing and membership in a terrorist organization. However, the competent prosecutor’s office has so far been unable to achieve any significant results, on the contrary, the court is on its way to collapse.
Political interest regarding the operation also appear to have waned, as the government at the time tried to demonstrate its commitment by taking a quick and firm reaction to the terrorist act, during a time when Karl Nehammer, who was foreign minister and now Austria’s chancellor, announced a blow to the “roots of political Islam” by arresting suspected networks of the MB.
The Muslim Brotherhood danger may be parallel to the one of classical terrorist groups such as Al – Qaeda or the Islamic State, but the organization knows exactly how to manage civil society structures, and uses different ways to strengthen their influence on society than classic terrorist groups. Avoiding the brutal rhetoric known to extremists the ideology of the organization is even more dangerous.
Two years after the security operation took place, Austria’s largest operation on political Islam is in danger of failing. According to press reports the “investigations are collapsing”, while defendants and their supporters feel comfortable as if they have been acquitted and rehabilitated to return to their activities again.
Why are the investigations in the Luxor case collapsing?
At the end of June, the Higher Regional Court in Graz rejected the submission of two experts who wrote a report that was necessary for the investigation, after 15 defendants filed a lawsuit to dismiss historian Heiko Heinisch and the political scientist Nina Scholz. Their document, which observers believe provided the prosecutor’s office with important insights about the Austrian Islamic landscape has been one of the main discussion topics after the operation took place.
The court’s decision stated that there were doubts about the historian Heinisch‘s impartiality, despite the German newspapers’ interest in the report, which was rejected by the court because it traced how the extremist Muslim Brotherhood in EU built an extensive organizational structure.
Heinisch was declared biased. But it is difficult to prove the inexperience of both Heinisch and Scholz. “In July 2017, long before the investigation began, he spoke about a suspect on a talk show on Servus TV and said at the time that the Muslim Brotherhood member Gamal M was probably the only person in Austria who openly admits to being an activist or even a member of the organization, this was relied upon by the court. According to German newspapers.
It cannot be proven that Scholz is biased. However, she was exempted from the expert role. According to Austrian press statements the political scientist expressed her annoyance on Facebook, saying: “The fact that my bias, according to the Higher Regional Court, is based solely on the fact that I wrote a report with someone who was found biased based on his statement on a talk show seems a bit strange to me.”
It seems that the collapse of the investigations also came as a result of the accusations nature against the suspected individuals, the case revolves around proving whether they are terrorists or not, and proving this accusation is difficult, because of the secrecy of the Brotherhood movement and its extreme caution regarding the transfers of funds, obtaining financial resources and building various institutions as a cover to work behind it. Many experts and analysts acknowledge that the group poses a threat to Austrian society and liberal values such as the rejection of equality between men and women and the refusal to integrate into Western societies and others. However, the group itself is not classified as a terrorist group, with the exception of Hamas. Therefore, the investigations even if they found out that a number of suspects belonged to the organization, would not constitute a crime from the court’s point of view.
There is a direct relationship between the group and terrorism, with regard to Hamas only, as its charter states: “The Islamic Resistance Movement is the branch of the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine.” Muslim Brotherhood intellectuals have recognized Palestine’s strategic importance in mobilizing supporters and sympathizers, but according to analysts, it is difficult to prove direct cooperation between organizations in Europe and Hamas. According to Scholz and Heinisch (3) there are at least suspicions against the Union of Good, an organization to which the Palestinian League in Austria.
The most important things mentioned in the report
Heinisch and Scholz describe the organization as a cross-border movement that seeks a seven-stage plan to change societies. This plan, written by the Egyptian founder Hassan Al – Banna, should “ultimately lead to the Islamization of the whole world,” and the long-term goal is the establishment of a world-wide Islamic caliphate.
The report included a reference to a Muslim Brotherhood strategy paper written in 1982 and found during a house search in 2001. According to the German newspaper „Die Welt“ the paper presents a “blueprint for Muslim Brotherhood actions in Europe,” with a focus on expanding Islam’s influence through democratic institutions.
This means that “everyone should be invited to attend parliamentary and city council meetings, as well as meetings of trade unions and other organizations, if influence can be exerted there for the benefit of Islam and Muslims,” which Scholz and Heinisch considered “an infiltration into state institutions and civil society.”
The Muslim Brotherhood has maintained a “purely tactical relationship” with violence. Even if they declare it nonviolent, it supports violence if it is beneficial to the organization. Heinisch and Scholz mentioned in their paperwork that the Brotherhood have repeatedly supported various terrorist groups throughout its history, although they do not describe the group as a terrorist organization.
In about 100 pages, experts detail how a network of organizations emerged in Austria over the decades that can be attributed to the Muslim Brotherhood ideologically or personally.
For example, Said Ramadan, Al – Banna‘s brother-in-law, founded the Islamic Center in Munich, which after 1973 developed “to become one of the most important centers of the Muslim Brotherhood in EU” and became “the starting point for the group’s spread to Austria”.
The report indicated that there is an important link between the organization in Austria and Germany, related to Ibrahim El – Zayat. He is one of the “central figures of the Muslim Brotherhood network in the EU”. For more than two decades, El – Zayat was “multi-functional” in a variety of organizations of the Muslim Brotherhood. On the other hand, Zayat’s sister ran a school in Munich in the past. According to the Bavarian Office for the Protection of the Constitution, this school was a front for the Muslim community in Germany. The school has been closed by German authorities in 2005 due to doubts about loyalty to the constitution.
Zayat’s sister is heading the private Islamic Religious Education Academy in Vienna since 2009, which trains teachers in Islamic religious education among other things. The co-founder is the Muslim Brotherhood member Gamal M., one of the accused of the “Luxor Operation”.
Gamal M. also served as the co-founder of the “Liga Kultur” association. According to Scholz and Heinisch, well-known German Muslim figures also participated in the youth work of the association, such as Ahmed Al – Khalifa, the former director of the Islamic Center in Munich, or Farid Haider who can be seen in a classroom with the children in a video from “Liga Kultur”.
Haidar has various contacts to the Muslim Brotherhood network. Experts say: “He currently works in several mosques that have been classified as affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood network, by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution in Germany, including the Taiba Mosque in Berlin, the Neuköllner Conference Center (NBS) or the Bilal Mosque in Frankfurt.“
The report also concluded that the Brotherhoods goal is to establish Muslims as a closed group separated from the rest of society. To do this, it is trying to “infiltrate the education sector in a variety of ways”. The various organizations in Europe and Austria served the goals of the global Muslim Brotherhood, “and therefore the long-term goal is to establish a global Islamic state under the caliphate.”
In which direction are the investigations going?
Public interest in the repercussion of the Luxor Operation or in the trial against members of the Muslim Brotherhood is declining. The ruling political elite remains silent, suggesting that this file may be closed, and the reason may be due to the fear that the court’s decisions might be contrary to the opinions of investigators and experts, which could be used to harm the current Austrian chancellor, who in the past strongly defended the Luxor process. This is in addition to the European preoccupation with the Ukrainian war and the decline in popular interest in the issues of Islamic terrorism.
At the judicial decision level , the court is moving towards more leniency with the movements of the Muslim Brotehrhood, and although this was not explicitly mentioned, it seems that there are hidden political reasons behind the court’s decisions, as hinted by some Austrian newspapers.
At the level of monitoring the movement of the group in Austria, the court decided that the results of the visual and audio monitoring of the “Liga Kultur” association and its entire members have to be destroyed. Furthermore, the Austrian Supreme Regional Court recently clarified that “according to the case of the file, no results have been obtained.”
According to the court, “there are no documented procedural results” that could indicate that the organization as a whole poses a terrorist or criminal threat similar to “Islamic State.” For this reason, not all branches of the Muslim Brotherhood can be considered terrorists, according to the Austrian newspaper „Der Standard“ on July 5, 2022.
The main witness in the case known as „Z“ suffered a setback in court. In August 2022 he was sentenced to a fine of 3,500 euros for defamation against two suspects. In the judge’s view, the man could not provide any evidence for his allegations, according to the court. The judge also did not believe defense witnesses of Z, including the head of the Center for Documentation of Political Islam’s Scientific Advisory Board, Muhannad Khorshid, according to columnist Jan – Michael Marchart on August 7, 2022.
The court will no longer rely seriously on the reports of witnesses, in the Luxor process, especially since some of them are afraid to provide the information they have. “The fact that the attorney general’s office can no longer rely on a whistleblower would certainly be an exaggeration. The former Prosecutor Gerhard Jarosch assessed the situation the following: „Of course, he loses credibility if he loses another case related to his involvement in the Luxor operation.
The court’s decision is a problem for Austria, but at the same time the investigations are important because they provide insight into reactionary Islamic circles in which an anti – Zionist and anti – Western worldview prevails. These are the circles in which the suspect believes that women are not equal to men. The analysts pointed out that one of the preachers advised against integrating into the “bad” Western society and called for violence against the “oppressors.“ Therefore, not to proceed with the investigations would give the impression of the futility of monitoring the group and its activities once again.
The failure of the Luxor process will eventually show that the government in Vienna has violated the rights of many “innocents.“ The failure of the Austrian state’s efforts will be cited as an example of anti-Muslim tendencies that could help the group to get even more supporters. The court’s recent decision could give the group’s leaders even more freedom of movement instead of being able to reduce the influence of the organization.
- German newspaper “Die Welt” July 11, 2022
- Austrian (der standard) site 5 July 2022
- Austrian (der Standard) website on July 5, 2022
All publishing rights and copyrights reserved to MENA Research and Study Center.