EGMR: Forthcoming judgment on Thursday 25 October 2018 – E.S. v. Austria (no. 38450/12)

The applicant, E.S., is an Austrian national who was born in 1971 and lives in Vienna. The case concerns the applicant’s conviction for disparaging religious doctrines.

In October and November 2009, Mrs S. held two seminars entitled “Basic Information on Islam”, in which she referred to the marriage between the Prophet Muhammad and the six-year-old Aisha, which allegedly was consummated when she was nine. The applicant, inter alia, stated that Muhammad “liked to do it with children” and “…’A 56-year-old and a six-year-old? … What do we call it, if it is not paedophilia?’”. On 15 February 2011 the Vienna Regional Criminal Court found that these statements conveyed the message that Muhammad had had paedophiliac tendencies, and convicted Mrs S. for disparaging religious doctrines. She was ordered to pay a fine of € 480 and the costs of the proceedings. Mrs S. appealed but the Vienna Court of Appeal upheld the decision in December 2011, confirming in essence the lower court’s findings. A request for the renewal of the proceedings was dismissed by the Supreme Court on 11 December 2013.

Relying on Article 10 (freedom of expression), Mrs S. complains that the domestic courts failed to address the substance of the impugned statements in the light of her right to freedom of expression. If they had done so, they would not have classified them as mere value judgments but as value judgments based on facts. Furthermore, her criticism of Islam occurred in the framework of an objective and lively discussion which contributed to a public debate, and had not been aimed at defaming the Prophet of Islam. Lastly, Mrs S. submitted that religious groups ought to be regarded as public institutions and therefore had to tolerate even severe criticism.

Press release ECHR 339 (2018) 18/10/2018

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