In 2009, Mrs. Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff (ES) spoke at a series of seminars organized by the Austrian Freedom Party, which were advertised to and open to members of the public.
At two such seminars, each attended by about 30 people, she made several statements about Islam and the Prophet Muhammad.
The seminars were also attended by an undercover journalist, whose publisher made a criminal complaint against Mrs. ES for the statements she had made.
The public prosecutor lodged an indictment against Mrs. ES and accused her of violation of Article 283 of the Austrian Criminal Code, which criminalizes the incitement of hatred.
The Court of 1st instance (Regional Court of Vienna) dropped this specific allegation, but convicted her on 15 February 2011 for disparaging religious doctrines under Article 188 of the Austrian Criminal Code.
Her appeals against this judgment was dismissed in Austria by the Court of 2nd instance (Superior Court of Vienna) on 20 December 2011 and the Court of 3rd instance (Supreme Court) on 11 December 2013.
After that, Mrs. ES lodged an appeal with the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in which, in particular, an infringement of Art. 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights (freedom of expression) was alleged.
By judgment of 25 October 2018, no. 38450/12, the Fifth Section of the ECtHR held that the appeal was admissible, but that there was no violation of Article 10 ECHR.
On 22 January 2019, Mrs. ES lodged a request for referral of the case to the Grand Chamber of the ECtHR (GC). The GC has not yet decided whether or not to accept the request for further consideration. We therefore do not yet know whether the case will be dealt with further and whether there will be an oral hearing.
In our view, the judgment of the ECtHR is in conflict with other decisions of the same Court which have given greater weight to the fundamental right to freedom of expression.
The case is so important because it concerns the core of the fundamental right to freedom of expression: criticism of religions is practically as important as criticism of politicians. If one suppresses the possibility of criticizing religions, this can lead to a chilling effect, which makes further discussion about religions more difficult.
The website is: http://www.friendsoffreespeech.org