Page last updated at 14:51 GMT, Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Vienna tram driver in Nazi salute

Vienna skyline. File pic
The invocation of Nazi symbols is banned in Austria

A tram driver in Vienna has been sacked after bidding farewell to passengers with the Nazi-era salute "Sieg Heil!"

The Austrian capital's public transit authority Wiener Linien said it had taken action after a report of the incident appeared in a Jewish paper.

The 35-year-old driver reportedly said to passengers: "Can't you take a joke?" He has since apologised.

The German phrase means "Hail Victory" and was frequently used at mass Nazi rallies in the 1930s.

Possible prosecution

The driver was running a city centre route on Saturday night when he bid travellers good night with the words over his public address system.

The driver did not deny using the words.

Media reports said passengers had booed but that some accepted his explanation that it was meant as a joke.

Germany's Der Spiegel quoted the transit authority as saying the actions were "unspeakable".

A mobile phone video of the incident had been posted on internet site YouTube but has since been withdrawn.

A spokesman for the public prosecutors' office, Gerhard Jarosch, told AFP news agency the driver could face prosecution.

If guilty, he could be given a jail sentence of up to 10 years.

Austria was annexed by Germany in 1938 and the use of Nazi symbols is now a crime.

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