13 Oct 2008

Notorious far-right politician killed in car crash

6:12 am on 13 October 2008

Controversial Austrian politician Jorg Haider has been killed in a road accident.

The right-wing MP died near Klagenfurt in Carinthia, his political stronghold, early on Saturday.

Police said said Mr Haider, 58, was driving alone when his car came off the road and he suffered severe head and chest injuries.

The former leader of the Austrian Freedom Party was known for his anti-immigration and anti-EU policies.

He had reportedly been due to attend his mother's 90th birthday celebrations later in the day.

Mr Haider was a divisive figure, who gained notoriety after he became leader of the Freedom Party in 1986.

In 1991, his term as governor of the province of Carinthia was interrupted, after he made comments praising employment policies of Nazi Germany. But he was re-elected in 1999 and 2003.

He caused an international backlash when the Freedom Party formed a coalition government with the conservative People's Party in 2000, triggering widespread condemnation and European Union sanctions.

The deal fell apart, leading to an early election in 2002 in which the Freedom Party lost heavily, followed by a remake of the coalition.

In 2005, he founded the Alliance for Austria's Future, which scored its best result so far in recent elections, gaining 11% of the vote.

Mr Haider was also widely condemned for meeting Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in 2002, which he said was a "purely humanitarian" matter.

Born in Upper Austria, his father was a former member of Adolf Hitler's brown-shirted storm troopers. His mother was a teacher who had been a Hitler Youth leader.