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The$Original$Error$of$the$Stephan$Templ$Case!

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The Austrian government has been forthright in acknowledging that they own
many properties that were illegally looted from their original Jewish owners by
the Nazis before and during the Second World War. But what is shocking is that
they are now claiming to be victims when the original owners request restitution
of the stolen assets.!
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That’s exactly what is happening in the persecution of rights activist and author
Stephan Templ, who in seven months is due to begin serving a jail sentence,
representing a travesty of justice with undeniable overtones of official AntiSemitism.!
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The Austrian government’s handling of the case against Stephan Templ is riddled
with mistakes, from unlawful changes to the original indictment to the final
sentencing decision that imposed a non-existent legal principle of “moral guilt.”!
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These blatant irregularities, which have no precedent in Austrian law (or other
similar legal systems), raise questions about the impartiality of the tribunal that
sentenced Stephan. But all of these mistakes would not have been possible had
they not stemmed from the original error that runs like a rotten thread
underpinning the state’s whole case.!
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The basis of the State’s claim is that Templ’s mother received a disproportionate
share of a Nazi-looted property attached to a restitution claim. Instead of onetwelfth, it should have been one-twenty-fourth, the State argues, with the rest
remaining property of the Republic of Austria. As Helene Templ sold her share
for €1.1million, the Republic found that Stephan Templ had harmed the Republic
in the amount of €550,000.!
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Some people might consider the Austrian government’s attempt to absorb stolen
Nazi property as questionable, especially given that their reasoning for this claim
is inconsistent and confusing. Sometimes they say that any shares that aren’t
‘claimed by heirs’ should remain with the State. Other times, they maintain that
as the Republic was the owner of the property at the time of restitution, that they
are damaged by having given ‘too much’ away of the property that they

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acknowledge to have stolen. This position contravenes both the spirit of the
Washington Agreement and the actual provisions of the General Settlement Fund
Law.!
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There are two and fundamental legal errors behind Austria’s persecution of
Stephan.!
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First, the entire basis of the restitution law is that the State acknowledges that it
has no legal right of ownership over any property that can be shown to have been
forcibly stolen from its owners. From the moment a property has been
demonstrated to fit the criteria (public property as of January 17, 2001; stolen
during the period 12 March 1938 to 9 May 1945; not previously subject to a
claim s28 GSF), the State is in effect holding it for the beneficial ownership of
whatever heirs to the original owners come forward within the time stipulated.!
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Second, it is of zero import to the State whether one heir, two heirs or three
thousand heirs come forward and are found eligible. The State must return the
property in its entirety, proportionally divided amongst however many eligible
heirs have come forward in time. It is simply mendacious for the State to claim
that any such thing as ‘unclaimed shares’ even exist, let alone to assert an
entitlement to them.!
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Despite the clear moral and legal clarity of restitution, each court and the judges
who tried Stephan, spokesmen for the Republic, officials from the Federal Real
Estate Agency, officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, officials from the
Financial Procutarors’ Office, the Attorney General and the Minister of Justice
have all maintained that Stephan’s ‘crime’ damaged the Republic of Austria
because the Republic has an ownership claim to a sanatorium that had been stolen
from Stephan’s ancestor in 1938.!
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Everything that has followed this original claim has only compounded the
injustice for Stephan. Nonetheless, this original claim should not be allowed to
stand or to go unquestioned and unanswered. In all the correspondence we have
received from the State, they have never been able to answer how this moral and
legal betrayal of the Restitution law can be justified.!
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It is long overdue that the State drops this absurd Kafka-esque case against
Stephan. This kind of arbitrary treatment against citizens belongs in the history
books and has no place in a modern, democratic Austria.!
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