VIENNA (AP) — Austrian prosecutors said Tuesday that they have charged an undercover policemen with badly beating a black American teacher after mistaking for a drug dealer at a Vienna subway station.
Mike Brennan, a teacher and former football player from Jacksonville, Florida who was working in the Austrian capital, says two undercover police officers "came out of nowhere" on Feb. 11, 2009 and attacked him without identifying themselves, before leaving him lying on the platform.
The case sparked outrage among Vienna's expatriate community and other foreigners who say they are unfairly treated by authorities due to their skin color. Amnesty International, a human rights watchdog, has said that Austrian authorities do not effectively investigate and punish racially motivated police misconduct and expressed concern that race was too often a factor in arrests and investigations. In a report last year, it has also said there was considerable evidence Austrian police have engaged in widespread ethnic profiling over the past decade, particularly in efforts to counter drug-related crime.
The Vienna Police Department said the officers mistook Brennan for a drug dealer of "almost identical" physical description. Brennan says he never got a satisfactory apology.
Korneuburg prosecution spokesman Friedrich Koehl said the policeman in question, who was not identified, will have to defend himself in court for the injuries to Brennan's back, head, neck, hand and wrist. He could face up to six months in prison, he said. Koehl said only one of the officers was being pursued because the other "did not do anything liable to prosecution." He did not provide details.
Brennan, who spent months recovering, says he is happy that action is finally being taken and hopes his case will help prevent similar incidents in the future.
But he questioned why it took so long to start proceedings and why just one of his two assailants is being prosecuted.
"I think that it is important that something is happening in my case and at least one of the officers will be charged even though both are responsible," Brennan wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press. "This is a start."
"This case is not only about me," Brennan said.
It was not immediately clear when the trial would begin.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press