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Help Advocates for Palestinian Rights Facing Unjust Lawsuit in Austria

A member of BDS Austria – a group of Palestinian rights advocates – is facing a lawsuit by the Municipality of Vienna that aims at silencing him and seriously threatens his fundamental right to freedom of expression. With lawyer Elisabetta Folliero and the support of the European Legal Support Center (ELSC), the advocate is challenging the Municipality of Vienna in Court where a hearing will take place on the 28th of January. Help us fight injustice and intimidation and gather enough money to face the legal costs of the lawsuit and potential damages. These could amount up to €35.000.

 

If you stand for freedom of expression, justice and you value solidarity, please DONATE here and share this page on your social media.

 

On November 2021, the activist – who decided to remain anonymous – received a legal notice from the Municipality of Vienna, which had filed a lawsuit for a social media post. The group was then amongst those who shared an image (see below) of a “Visit Apartheid” poster stuck to a billboard in August 2021, alongside the sarcastic caption: “We are glad that the City of Vienna also recognizes apartheid and publicly states it”. The Municipality claimed it as defamatory, consequently expressing that the Municipality of Vienna cannot be associated with – no, not apartheid – but with the BDS movement that would “incite to hatred”! 


The City based its claim on an anti-democratic resolution that smears the BDS movement and contradicts with European and international Human Rights standards, such as exposed in a legal opinion commissioned by the ELSC and signed by renowned scholars.

 

Thanks to your donations, we will ensure effective legal support to the advocate until the end of the proceedings, with the aim of denouncing the anti-democratic policies of the Vienna Municipality and pushing it to change its practices.


The poster shared by the activist was an adaptation of the iconic “Visit Palestine” poster designed in 1936 by Austrian marketer, Franz Krausz. 


The poster has since come to symbolise the historic context of the struggle for recognition and basic rights for the Palestinian people and was revived and reclaimed by Palestinians. Artists such as Amer Shomali soon gave their creativity free reign and created versions of the poster with direct references to the Israeli Apartheid regime. 

The commission of the crime of apartheid by Israeli authorities has now been documented and recognised by many human rights organisations, including Human Rights Watch, Israeli organisations B’Tselem and Yesh Din, and before them Palestinian civil society organisations as well as the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) or Jewish Voice for Peace.

 

BDS Austria was created in 2014 as part of the Palestinian civil society-led BDS movement. Based on the experience of activists who challenged South-African Apartheid, the movement uses non-violent means to demand the end of the systematic oppression and discrimination of Palestinians, in line with international law and universal human rights principles. What BDS Austria stands for is solidarity and justice

 

 

“We at BDS Austria, are people from a wide variety of backgrounds and socializations are involved. ... We are all united by the desire to end the ongoing oppression and discrimination against Palestinians, so that all people in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories can live in their homeland with equal rights and dignity, regardless of religious or other affiliations. We are also united by the conviction or belief that the BDS campaign is an effective, peaceful and non-violent means to achieve this goal. 


On 6 April 2022, in a highly contestable decision, the judge ruled in favor of the City of Vienna and ordered that the BDS activist must no longer use the logo of the City of Vienna in connection with any publication or public statement. Nevertheless, BDS Austria won’t be silenced and is determined to denounce the Israeli apartheid. The activist will appeal. The activist’s lawyer, Elisabetta Folliero, said:

 

My client wants to proceed with the appeal, which is crucial for the defence of the fundamental right to freedom of expression. The City’s claim of financial compensation for damages and the cost of the legal proceedings, which my client will be required to pay if the appeals court upholds this controversial judgement, has already a chilling effect on support for Palestinian rights in Austria. For this reason, we ask for solidarity, including donations, which will support our appeal.”

 

In order to succeed the appeal, we need your help and solidarity to secure extra costs related to lawyer fees and Court fees. 

 

Now is also the time to reinforce the pressure and show the City of Vienna that it cannot keep silencing lawful and legitimate activism! Write directly to the Mayor of Vienna and ask him to end this undemocratic lawsuit.


Read more information on the lawsuit on the ELSC website.


Sign this petition co-sponsored by the ECCP (European Coordination of Committees and Associations for Palestine) to put pressure on the Municipality of Vienna.

 

How we will use your donation

 

The total cost of the lawsuit for the activist could amount up to €35.000, depending on the outcomes of the hearing. All funds donated to this case will be used to cover the costs of this case. 

 

As a first step, the activist needs to cover his legal fees that amounts to 5.000.  

 

In addition, following the judgment issued on 6 April 2022, the judge approved the City’s request of damages and of legal fees to be covered by the BDS activist. If this decision if confirmed in the Court of Appeal, the activist will have to:

- pay the damages requested by the City of Vienna: €3.500 

- cover the City's legal fees, which, after the second hearing, could amount to € 9.000