U-turn: Secrecy saved

Austrian News Briefs

Minister of Justice Beatrix Karl (People’s Party, ÖVP) backed down from proposed changes to the code of criminal procedure after facing severe criticism that they hollowed out the confidentiality of lawyers, notaries, and journalists among others.

Yielding to growing pressure from professional associations, opposition parties, and even her party’s own coalition partner, the Social Democratic Party (SPÖ), Karl dropped a draft law that would have given public prosecutors insight into files seized from professionals who are subject to oaths of confidentiality.

The change would have annulled professionals’ right to object to the disclosure in cases where they were themselves suspects – a marked change from the current system in which any objections lead to a transfer of seized material to a judge who then decides which files may be passed on to prosecutors.

Karl had been accused of altering the bill on the sly after the public review period had ended, a charge she vehemently denied.

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