Thousands pay respects to Austria's Haider

Oct. 18, 2008 at 9:00 AM

KLAGENFURT, Austria, Oct. 18 (UPI) -- Thousands of people attended a memorial service Saturday for right-wing Austrian leader Jorg Haider, who died in a car crash last weekend, officials said.

The service for the late leader of the right-wing Alliance for the Future of Austria was attended by Austrian President Heinz Fischer and Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer, the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle reported.

Critics say local authorities in the Austrian state of Carinthia are giving Haider a send-off fit for a hero, even though many have labeled him a neo-Nazi, and police say he was drunk at the time of his high-speed crash, the BBC said.

Reports that such high-profile European right-wingers as Alessandra Mussolini and Jean-Marie Le Pen were coming to the funeral in the city of Klagenfurt proved unfounded, Deutsche Welle reported.

There has also been uneasiness among some Austrians that the country's political establishment have given Haider, 58, too much post-mortem praise. Haider caused much divisiveness in Austria and Europe thanks to his controversial anti-immigration policies and his labeling of refugees as "criminals." He was also well known for praising wartime Nazi SS officers, the BBC said.

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