(JTA) – Austria’s economy ministry said it asked prosecutors to examine claims of discriminatory treatment in the trial of a Jewish historian facing prison for omitting his aunt from an application for Holocaust restitution.
Stephan Templ, the historian, is to report to prison on Sept. 28 to serve out his 2014 sentence of one year in jail for fraud against the Republic of Austria because he left out the aunt from the application he filed in 2006 on behalf of his mother.
The examination pertains to documents that suggest that an Austrian public notary, Helmut Scheubrein, also omitted at least one beneficiary whom he was told existed from a list of heirs to the asset for which Templ’s mother received restitution.
Scheubrein, who submitted the list in 2007, was not prosecuted while Templ – who in 2001 wrote a book highly critical of Austria’s restitution record – received for the same actions a punishment which the Anti-Defamation League described as “extraordinary” and raising “some uncomfortable questions.”
Templ said this showed “discriminatory treatment” of his prosecution, which he and other critics have called a vendetta, though Austrian authorities denied this.
“The allegations of Mr. Templ concerning Dr. Scheubrein are new to us,” Economy Ministry spokesperson Harald Hoyer told JTA on Sept. 17, adding that his office transmitted the information for examination by “the competent public prosecutor.”
On Sept. 16, the human rights lawyer Robert Amsterdam, who is representing Templ pro bono, sent a harshly worded letter to Austrian President Heinz Fischer, whose office earlier this month cited declined ADL’s request to pardon Templ.
“Mr. Templ is now a convicted criminal because the Republic of Austria claims an application form he filled out for restitution is homologous with serious fraud. Unless and until you change that, Austria carries his conviction on its shoulders,” Amsterdam wrote.