This forms part of CAGE’s report Operation Luxor: Unravelling the myths behind Austria’s largest ever peacetime police raids
Download the report here
View the rest of the project at our report hub here
At that moment Ali’s life lay in the hands of this officer, shakily clutching his gun unpredictably.
Ali knew that Austrian police didn’t have a good name – that they had a ‘Nazi tendency’. Nevertheless Ali, who is an Imam, had co-operated with the police as a mediator when called upon by them, to settle heated disputes.
He had found his own experiences broadly positive.
A year before the raids someone from the BVT unit contacted him and told him that his life was in danger, and that a foreign government was after him. They advised and assisted him in securing a firearm for self-defence.
Forcing his 16 year-old son to lie on the floor at gunpoint
Just before 5am, Ali heard a crash that sounded like the ceiling collapsing. Expecting an explosion, he ran down to his door to find people hammering his apartment door with a battering ram.
His first thoughts were: How are the children? and What could I do against these people.
It felt like a James Bond movie. He looked out of the door peephole and saw guns pointing back at him, as officers continued to hammer the door.
Ali called out for them to stop. But the officers, whom he was familiar with on account of his mediator work, were untrained and uncaring. They didn’t even manage to break down the door – eventually, Ali opened it for them.
A sweaty officer with an assault rifle, fingers shaking on the trigger, yelled “hands up” at Ali. At that moment Ali’s life lay in the hands of this officer, shakily clutching his gun unpredictably.
Ali’s 16 year-old son was made to lie on the ground with his hands on his back and guns pointed at him. The police even forced his son to put his hands on his back, enraging Ali even more. He was wondering how he could protect his son; whether he should jump on the officer’s back, and whether his fellow officers would fill him with bullets.
“We are going after the moderates to keep them weak”
Ali was given nothing to eat until 12am the next day.
The chief in charge of the search claimed that the raid had to be carried out because Ali ‘had a gun’ – which the BVT themselves had advised him to get. In reality, the raid order turned out to be a search for money.
During the raid, Ali emphasised to officers that he had worked for the Austrian state himself: “We have protected the country”. “Why us?” he continued “Why not criminals?”
The fact that Ali ended up being persecuted by the Austrian state already spoke volumes, hence he knew the answer as to why this was happening. “We want extremism, because we are going after the moderates, which keeps the moderates weak and mute and give room to the extremists”, responded an officer.
From the name of Operation Luxor Ali is sure that foreign countries were involved in coordinating the operation. He is certain that the Egyptian government had a role to play – something underscored by the fact that “Operation Luxor” was initially codenamed “Ramses”.
Image used courtesy Unsplash/ev
(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)