Austria’s ex-vice chancellor on trial for corruption charges

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Former Freedom Party from leader Heinz-Christian Strache waits for the start of a trial in a courtroom in Vienna, Austria, Tuesday, July 6, 2021. Strache is accused of trying to change laws in order to favour a private hospital in exchange for donations. (AP Photo/Lisa Leutner)

VIENNA (AP) — The former Austrian vice chancellor and ex-leader of Austria’s right-wing Freedom Party went on trial Tuesday for corruption charges at a Vienna court.

Heinz-Christian Strache is accused of trying to change laws in order to favor a private hospital in exchange for donations. He pleaded not guilty in court on Tuesday, Austrian news agency APA reported.

Prosecutors allege that Strache accepted a 10,000-euro ($11,850) donation for his party in exchange for a legal amendment that would have benefitted the donor’s private hospital by bringing it under a public funding umbrella. The trial, which opened Tuesday, is expected to last for four days.

Allegedly the manager of the hospital also invited Strache and his wife on a trip by private jet to the Greek island of Corfu in the spring of 2018. Both Strache and the manager have rejected the accusations, APA reported.

If convicted, Strache could face a prison sentence ranging from 6 months to 5 years.

Strache’s legal team announced that neither Strache nor his lawyers will give any public statements during the trial, local media reported.

Strache was involved in the fall of the previous Austrian government, a coalition of Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s conservative Austrian People’s Party and the Freedom Party.

In May 2019, a video showing then-Freedom Party leader Strache offering favors to a purported Russian investor prompted Kurz to pull the plug on the national government. Strache, who denied any wrongdoing, was later kicked out of the Freedom Party.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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