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    Heinz-Christian Strache, chairman of the right-wing Freedom Party, FPOE, adjusts his glasses during a news conference in Vienna, Austria, Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017

    ‘Stasi-Like Methods’: Ex-Austrian Freedom Party Leader Sues Creators of Video Which Collapsed Gov’t

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    Earlier this year, Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache resigned after the release of a secretly filmed video showing the politician discussing ways to avoid party financing laws with a woman posing as a ‘niece of a Russian oligarch’ who turned out to be a Bosnian national. The scandal wound up bringing down the entire Austrian government.

    Johann Gudenus, the former leader of the Austrian Freedom Party’s parliamentary faction, has filed a lawsuit against one of the alleged creators of the secret Strache video, Radio Ö1 reported on Friday.

    Gudenus’s lawyer, Heinz-Dietmar Schimanko, said that his client had been “the victim of Stasi-like methods of the worst kind” (a reference to the old East German security service), adding that his legal team would be using “all possible legal measures” to ensure that the Ibizagate video which prompted the vice-chancellor to resign was deleted from news sources.

    Gudenus is seeking €68,000 euros in compensation, as well as information about who bought the video before handing it over to German media.

    The Vienna-based lawyer against whom Gudenus filed a lawsuit reportedly responded by saying the video in question was a ‘civil society initiative’ which used strictly ‘journalistic investigative methods’.

    Ibizagate

    In May 2019, shortly before elections to the European parliament, German media published a video taken in a hotel room in Ibiza, Spain showing Strache allegedly discussing the possibility of buying a media resource to publish favourable stories about the government alongside a young woman who was reported to be the ‘niece of a Russian oligarch’ from Latvia. The scandal that ensued after the video’s release forced Strache to resign, along with the Austrian government, including coalition ally and Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, following a no-confidence vote.

    Eventually, media investigations revealed that the ‘Russian’ woman in the video was actually a Bosnian national, who was paid €7,000 to play the role. Strache described the affair as entrapment and a “political assassination,” with media reports later suggesting the video’s creators used alcohol and prohibited substances to “loosen his tongue.”

    The video was sold to a mystery ‘German company’ for €600,000, and handed over to German newspapers Der Spiegel and Suddeutsche Zeitung for publication. Strache launched a formal complaint against the newspapers in June.

    Early Vote

    Austrians will go to the polls for snap elections on September 29. On Thursday, a new poll by the Kurier newspaper and the OGM survey agency found that about 35 percent of Austrians are likely to vote for Kurz’s Austrian People’s Party. Norbert Hoffer, leader of the Freedom Party, is polling at 23 percent, while Pamela Rendi-Wagner, chairwoman of the Social Democratic Party, is in third with 19 percent, with the Green Party fourth with 11 percent. One in five Austrians have yet to make up their minds on who to vote for, according to the poll.

    The Austrian People’s Party and Freedom Party formed a coalition after taking 24 percent and 20.5 percent of the vote in the 2017 elections, respectively.

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