Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff: Thoughts Before Trial

A decision in the case looms.

Tomorrow morning, Tuesday December 20th, Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff will learn the results of her appeal to Austria’s highest court.

As described in this space a few weeks ago (See Part 1, Part 2and Part 3), Elisabeth was charged last year with “denigration of religious beliefs of a legally recognized religion” for asserting that “Mohammed had a thing for little girls.” In February of this year she was convicted, and will have to pay a fine of up to €480. If she refuses to pay the fine, she may spend a maximum of two months in jail.

The court did not contest the truth of Mohammed’s marriage to a six-year-old, nor the fact that the Prophet of Islam had consummated the marriage when his bride was nine. The judge could hardly disagree with these facts, since they are confirmed by authoritative scholars in all branches of Islam.

No, Elisabeth was convicted despite the truth of what she said. She was found guilty because her words were deemed offensive to Muslims. As we all know by now, the truth is no defense when Muslims are offended. Anyone who offends a Muslim in Modern Multicultural Austria now risks criminal prosecution.

On Tuesday she will learn whether the judge in the higher court is a man of integrity. Common sense would tell him that the case against Elisabeth was a farrago of justice, and should be thrown out on the merits. But common sense is sorely lacking these days in Europe.

Elisabeth has been pondering the legal nightmare she has been trapped in for the last two years, and sends the following meditation on the day before she learns the verdict in her appeal:

Thoughts Before Trial

Tis the season to be… What?

For some people it may well be the season to be jolly. For me, it is the season to be hopeful.

Once again I am in the midst of preparing for what may well be a watershed concerning freedom of speech and opinion within the European Union. The trial’s outcome could shape the limits on permissible speech under secular law. My conviction earlier this year implicitly used religious law — in this case, Sharia law — in its arguments.

This is how low our Western societies and their political and legal representatives have stooped in recent years: one wonders whether religious law actually trumps secular law. Am I, a concerned citizen, allowed to voice my alarm that Mohammed’s actions vis-à-vis his child-bride Aisha — marriage at the age of six, consummation at the age of nine — are emulated by devout Muslims here in Austria, in Europe, in the Western world, who, according to the teachings of the Koran, are to follow their prophet’s every example?

Here are some of the points that my lawyer and I will raise on Tuesday:

I. The court of first instance (lower court) ruled that while it accepted that Mohammed had sex with Aisha when he was 56 and she was nine years old, the judge decided that what I said, namely the above, was untrue. The judge’s findings, however, are incorrect, as we know. The problem with this reasoning with respect to §188, denigration of religious teachings, is as follows: one cannot hold someone [Mohammed] in contempt if the referenced actions are objectively contemptuous, and factually accurate. I could not have held Mohammed in contempt, since I spoke the truth.

II. The lower court also decided that I had intentionally called Mohammed’s behavior “pedophilia” to denigrate Islam and cause offense. This is ridiculous and false. When I was grilled by the judge, I told her that I believe the truth could never be denigrating, and that what I said was covered by my right to freedom of speech. Thus, §188 cannot be applied. The truth cannot be denigrating.

III. The lower court spoke of my use of the word “pedophilia”, one that I used incorrectly to describe Mohammed’s behavior. Because the audience in my seminars was composed of “ordinary” people, there is no need for the use or knowledge of the clinical definition of the term. Thus, the audience knew what I was referring to when I used the term “pedophilia”, namely that an adult, Mohammed, had sex with an underage person, Aisha.

IV. The lower court explained that child marriage was common not only in Islam (note: it is still common!), but also in European royal courts. This is completely false: When children were married to each other, they did not have sex; they were married to secure the royal dynasty.

V. The lower court also convicted me for saying the Mohammed had “a lot of women”, which is another truthful statement.

VI. With respect to freedom of speech:

Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights

Article 10 — Freedom of expression

  1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.
  2. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.

Everyone is guaranteed this right. Referring to paragraph 1, it is permitted without any restrictions to impart truthful fact. Referring to paragraph 2, it is important to note that freedom of speech can be restricted by the state if deemed “necessary” within a democratic society. In other words, the burden of proof lies with the state.

I. The lower court accused me of excessively assessing Mohammed’s behavior. Even if the lower court’s opinion is correct, namely that the charge of pedophilia was used to denigrate and that this opinion is excessively harsh because Mohammed was “only” married to a minor, my lawyer and I say the following: Entering a marriage with a six-year-old is perverse according to today’s understanding. Even if it is “just” a marriage (and not a consummation), then simply the act of marriage makes him an object of contempt.

II. The right to freedom of speech (Art. 10 Human Rights Convention) and the right to religious freedom are equal before the law. The guarantees as found in Article 9 must not be understood as a protective shield against criticism and different opinions. The opinions I voiced during my seminars did not interfere with the right of Muslims to freedom of conscience, religion, and thought.

If one were to understand my opinions to be impairing the religious peace, the consequence would be that the state would have to accept child marriages that are also consummated, otherwise the state could be accused of impairing the religious peace of the Islamic faith community. This is the result of Article 9, where “subject to certain restrictions” that are “in accordance with law” and “necessary in a democratic society” is deemed to mean the necessity for tolerance and respect for different beliefs, i.e. the tolerance of the belief that child marriage is permissible.

There are certain reasons to be cautiously optimistic about the outcome of Tuesday’s hearing. I can assure all of you that I will not waver in my stance: I am not guilty, I cannot be guilty of speaking the truth, even if the truth is unpalatable to some people. And nothing but a full acquittal will be acceptable. I will not give up, and I will never give in to sharia law.

Please continue with your prayers and support. This is not about me; this is about all of us. In order for Western Civilization to survive, we must fight for our basic, God-given rights, the most important of which is freedom of speech.

May freedom prevail!

 — Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff

A team from the European branch of the International Civil Liberties Alliance will be live-blogging Elisabeth’s trial tomorrow. Her case will be heard very early in the morning American time — at about 3am to 5am EST — but if you are up that early (or late), check in with Save Free Speech or Tundra Tabloids for real-time reports in English.

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