Austria: Court convicts former army colonel of spying for Russia but sets him free

A Salzburg court on Tuesday found a former Austrian colonel guilty of spying for Russia. The 71-year-old defendant was sentenced to three years in prison, but having served half of it in pre-trial detention, he was set free. The defendant was seen leaving the courtroom along with his lawyer. The trial was held behind closed doors. «I am very satisfied he is free, I wouldn't have asked for anything more,» said Michael Hofer, the defendant's lawyer. He added that «a conditional release has now been pronounced because the pre-trial detention [of the defendant] has lasted for longer than half [the sentence].» A spokesperson for the regional court of Salzburg, Peter Egger, said after the trial that «the jury answered the main question of the crime of betraying state secrets with a vote of five to three and a sentence of three years unconditional sentence was announced.» The court found that there are «no longer any grounds for detention,» and «no longer any risk of committing an offense,» according to Egger, who pointed out that the «honesty» and the age of the defendant were ultimately «the decisive factor in the decision making during the trial.» The retired army colonel who was arrested in 2018 was accused of sharing secret information about Austrian artillery positions and military weapon systems for at least 25 years, since 1992. The man denied the accusations of espionage, claiming he acted like a foreign correspondent who passed on publicly available information.

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