An Austrian choose on the heart of a corruption scandal enveloping Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and his center-right occasion resigned following the publication of a collection of textual content messages containing sexist and racist language.
Wolfgang Brandstetter, a former justice minister despatched by Kurz to the constitutional court docket in 2018, introduced his choice late Thursday, saying he believed he may “greatest serve” the court docket by leaving it. Chief Justice Christoph Grabenwarter stated he was “shocked and dismayed” by the messages and that he hoped Brandstetter’s resignation would enable the court docket to attract a line underneath the matter.
The texts, which had been exchanged between Brandstetter and Christian Pilnacek, a senior civil servant within the justice ministry, are stuffed with derogatory feedback, some with racial overtones, about feminine members of the constitutional court docket and the corruption prosecutors pursuing Kurz’s authorities. Simply as alarming, the communications embrace assaults on the Austrian judiciary that forged doubt on the highest officers’ dedication to the very rule of regulation they vowed to uphold.
The chats got here to gentle as a part of a sweeping felony investigation into suspected corruption in Kurz’s center-right Individuals’s Occasion (ÖVP). Numerous senior officers, together with Kurz himself, who’s suspected of perjury, have come underneath the scrutiny of prosecutors, however Brandstetter is the primary to resign, a transfer that alerts the scandal is inching ever nearer to the chancellor’s interior circle.
All of these underneath investigation deny doing something unlawful.
In the middle of the probe, investigators have found hundreds of textual content message exchanges between high authorities officers, drawing again the curtain on a political machine constructed on patronage that critics say is undermining the nation’s democratic foundations, particularly the rule of regulation and freedom of the press.
In one of many textual content exchanges that got here to gentle this week, Brandstetter and Pilnacek in October joked about information that Cuba had acquired decommissioned Austrian trash vehicles.
Pilnacek prompt that it may be essential to “export the constitutional court docket to Cuba,” including that the Cubans “can be happy with our vp.”
The vp of Austria’s constitutional court docket, Verena Madner, is Black.
Pilnacek went on to say that one other feminine member of the court docket, Claudia Kahr, “can be a very good trashwoman.”
The 2 males are among the many most senior judicial officers within the nation with immense energy over authorized choices. Pilnacek, who’s underneath investigation for alleged perjury and different misconduct, was thought of essentially the most influential official within the justice ministry till his current suspension as a part of the corruption probe. He’s difficult his suspension and insists he did nothing fallacious.
The facility he loved however, the chats counsel Pilnacek had all however misplaced religion within the authorized system through which he’d spent his profession working.
In December, after the court docket overturned a authorities ban on head scarves and determined to allow assisted suicide, Pilnacek concluded “one can not serve a judicial system being led astray by the constitutional court docket.”
He was additionally upset with the workplace of the corruption prosecutor, telling Brandstetter that it “was and is an issue.”
On the time, Pilnacek was searching for permission to faucet into the corruption prosecutor’s e-mail accounts, in keeping with separate chats he had together with his subordinates. It’s not clear if he succeeded. That very same workplace is now investigating each Pilnacek and Brandstetter.
Brandstetter, who in 2018 served as a particular adviser to European Commissioner Věra Jourová on rule-of-law points, additionally freely shared confidential info with Pilnacek concerning the court docket’s pending choices and inside deliberations, the latter of that are supposed to stay secret for 30 years.
As a part of their probe, prosecutors are investigating whether or not Pilnacek warned Brandstetter in 2019 that authorities had been about to go looking the premises of a outstanding authorized shopper of his.
Each males deny any wrongdoing.
Certainly, the chats between the 2 legal professionals are stuffed with boastful language that they’d in the end prevail.
Or, as Brandstetter prefer to log off within the exchanges: “Venceremos!”