Austria registers spike in far-right extremist crime
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Austria registers spike in far-right extremist crime

Government reports 1,156 offenses in 2015, up 54% from 2014; Jews, other minorities are main targets

Election campaign posters of presidential candidate Norbert Hofer from the far-right Freedom Party of Austria (FPOE) is seen in Vienna, Austria on April 19, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / JOE KLAMAR)
Election campaign posters of presidential candidate Norbert Hofer from the far-right Freedom Party of Austria (FPOE) is seen in Vienna, Austria on April 19, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / JOE KLAMAR)

Austria’s Interior Ministry says xenophobic and racist crimes committed by far-right sympathizers have spiked by more than 50 percent in a year, with Muslims, Jews and other minorities the main targets.

A ministry report presented Monday said 1,156 such crimes were registered for 2015, compared with 750 for 2014, an increase of around 54 percent.

The report also says that 259 persons had either traveled to Syria or Iraq by 2015 to fight on the side of Islamic extremists or had the intention of doing so before being stopped by authorities. It says 75 fighters returned to Austria by last year and 43 are believed to have been killed in the region.

The report says crimes committed by left-wing extremists dropped last year to 186 from 371 in 2014.

The far-right scored a political victory in Austria last weekend, with the Freedom Party’s candidate Norbert Hofer winning the first round of a presidential election, dealing the government a disastrous defeat. A week on, the country’s embattled chancellor was greeted with loud boos as he addressed around 80,000 people in Vienna on May Day on Sunday.

The jeering and whistling at times threatened to derail Werner Faymann’s speech as he sought to defend the ruling coalition’s handling of the migrant crisis and rising unemployment.

Many in the crowd gathered outside the city hall held up signs reading: “Retirement for Faymann! Step down now!”

Raising his voice, Faymann urged party supporters and trade unions to choose a “united path for a fair, socially equal Austria.”

The coalition, made up of Faymann’s Social Democrats (SPOe) and the conservative People’s Party (OeVP), has been hemorrhaging voters to the Freedom Party.

Meanwhile candidates from the two main parties, which have effectively run Austria since the end of World War II, failed to even make it into the runoff on May 22.

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