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Leading Neo-Nazi is Incriminated by Witness

March 23, 1995

VIENNA, Austria (AP) _ A man accused of scheming to seize power in a right-wing putsch was indeed a key neo-Nazi leader, despite his claims to the contrary, a former comrade testified Thurday.

Hans-Joerg Schimanek, 31, was arrested last September on suspicion of giving false testimony in a similar neo-Nazi trial. In that case, Austria’s top neo-Nazi, Gottfried Kuessel, was sentenced to 11 years in prison.

In this trial, Schimanek _ the son of a well-known Austrian politician _ could face up to life in prison if convicted on a wide-range of neo-Nazi activities, including threatening to overthrow the government.

His former comrade contradicted Schimanek’s contention that he was not a leading member of the rightwing extremist group, People’s Extraparliamentary Opposition.

Press laws forbade identifying the witness, a 23-year-old roofer.

Since the trial began Monday, prosecutor Sepp Dieter Fasching has accused Schimanek of underming the integrity of Austria by being a leading member and paramilitary instructor of the extremist group.

On Thursday, Judge Klothilde Eckbrecht asked the witness about the group’s hierarchy.

``If Kuessel was Adolf Hitler, who, then, was Schimanek?″ he asked.

``Himmler,″ the witness replied. Heinrich Himmler was chief of the dreaded Gestapo, the Nazi secret police that played a key role in rounding up Jews, Gypsies and others deemed hostile to the Nazi regime.

The witness also said Schimanek took care of ``order and discipline″ as well as paramilitary leadership and training for the group.

In May 1993, the witness and four other activists were sentenced to several months in prison for neo-Nazi activities.

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