Causa Prikraf – New witnesses: Strache trial postponed again

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The repeated trial of former FPÖ leader Heinz-Christian Strache has been underway since Monday at the Vienna Regional Criminal Court. It is about the connection with the affair about the private financing fund for hospitals (Prikraf). Immediately at the start of the second day of the hearing, the judge announced – without giving details – that the WKStA had asked for more witnesses and had submitted more chats. The trial has now been postponed to January 10.

Strache was sentenced to 15 months on probation in August 2021 for bribery, and the co-defendant owner of the Währing private clinic, Walter Grubmüller, was sentenced to 12 months probation. However, the conviction was overturned by the Higher Regional Court in August.

The proceedings concerned a suspected law purchase in connection with the Währing private clinic. The operator of the clinic had donated a total of 12,000 euros to the federal FPÖ. For this amount, Strache4 should have campaigned to include Grubmüller’s clinic in the private financing fund for hospitals (Prikraf). A fact that the ex-Vice Chancellor and his close friend now vehemently deny for the second time.

Big surprise at the beginning
Two days were scheduled in the second run of the bribery or corruption trial. The interrogations of the defendants proceeded quickly: both Strache and Grubmüller remained true to their responsibility from the first trial. The two answer almost no questions from the WKStA. The summoned witnesses also did not spend too long in the courtroom. Judge Helene Gnida was able to retire early on the first day of the hearing. Neither FPÖ health spokeswoman Dagmar Belakowitsch nor lawyer Johannes Hübner testified on the first day in the second legal trial.

Three other witnesses – private clinic operator Julian Handschieff, FPÖ member Fritz Simhandl and accountant Johanna Gibiser – have been invited to the second day of the hearing. They also don’t know about a law purchase. However, the WKStA apparently does not have enough witnesses: right at the start of the trial, judge Gnida announced that the public prosecutor’s office had submitted a petition the day before. They want to invite three witnesses and have more chat logs read. Among the requested witnesses is the brother of the first suspect, Helmut Grubmüller.

Grubmüller’s brother does not testify
He immediately uses his right to refuse: “I am already announcing that I will not testify,” said lawyer Helmut Grubmüller. Strache’s lawyer Johann Pauer also speaks out against the applications: “I am somewhat surprised that witnesses are still being asked for on the last day of a second appearance. This means that the defendant only has to pay extra court costs. I have in an ongoing business has never let a client down and I won’t do that here either.”

“It’s about process program”
So the second round of the Prikraf trial has to be postponed – to the dismay of the judge. “It is also about a pilot program,” Gnida reminds prosecutors. Nevertheless, “That doesn’t change the fact that you need the witnesses and they need to be loaded.” These are FPÖ members Erwin Angerer and Peter Wurm. They had co-signed the initiative motion to amend the Prikraf law. So they are witnesses. A rejection of this application would speak for the judge’s bias.

It is postponed to January 10, 2023.

Source: Krone

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