St. Polten. The transfer of unaccompanied minor refugees to a barbed-wire secured quarter in Drasenhofen is being dealt with by the courts in St. Pölten. It is about the suspicion of abuse of office against the Lower Austrian Provincial Councilor Gottfried Waldhäusl (FPÖ) and a former state official. According to the business and corruption prosecutor’s office, the quarter was “not suitable accommodation in the sense of the basic statutory service”. The facility, which is bordered by barbed wire, gave the young people the “feeling of being locked up”.
“I gave political wishes and guidelines, but no instructions,” emphasized Waldhäusl in court. The specialist department is responsible for the legal clarification. The provincial council is responsible for the “political orientation”, said the Freedom Party in the direction of the public prosecutor Michael Schön: “If I knew all that, I would work in the specialist department.” To all questions from the representatives of the private parties involved, who joined the criminal proceedings for affected refugees, Waldhäusl replied: “No answer.”
“Not dare to refuse”
According to the November 2018 report by the child and youth ombudsman, there was pollution in the neighborhood and barbed wire secured the facility. The refugees were therefore only able to leave the accommodation for a limited time accompanied by security, contact with the outside was prevented. “Does that agree with your perception?” Judge Silvia Pöchacker wanted to know from Waldhäusl. “In no way,” said the first accused.
After questioning Waldhäusl, the 54-year-old former state official had her say. “These allegations hit me extremely,” the accusations were false, emphasized the accused in a coherent statement that lasted about an hour. The lawyer stated that she was only responsible for the asylum legal representation. She criticized that “things are attributed to her for which I was not responsible because I only did them to support my boss and not on my own responsibility”.
According to her statement, she took part in working groups on the planned facility on the instructions of her supervisor at the time, although the topics were not her responsibility: “I didn’t dare to reject it.” According to her, the deputy had communicated with the lawyer in the cabinet of the state council, never with Waldhäusl herself. She received the concept for Drasenhofen, “but never read it”.
The trial will continue on March 7 with further questioning of the second accused.