VIENNA, Austria – California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (search) should be stripped of citizenship in his native Austria for approving the execution of a convicted killer, a leading Austrian politician said Saturday.
The demand, by a top official from the environmentalist Green Party (search), had little chance for success, but it underscores how Schwarzenegger has lost popularity in his homeland over his support for the death penalty. Most Austrians — and many other Europeans — abhor capital punishment as cruel and inhumane.
Peter Pilz (search) said Schwarzenegger broke the law in Austria — where capital punishment is illegal — and is no longer worthy of citizenship because he allowed the execution of Donald Beardslee's execution to go ahead last week.
"Schwarzenegger is possibly the most prominent Austrian abroad, and he shapes the picture of Austria," Pilz said. "I don't want that picture shaped by someone who commits state murder. That does not correspond to the political culture of this country."
Pilz told Austrian media he sent the Interior Ministry a letter formally requesting that the government begin the process of terminating Schwarzenegger's citizenship.
Calls to the Interior Ministry seeking comment went unanswered Saturday.
It appeared unlikely that the Greens, a leftist opposition party which holds just a handful of seats in parliament, would persuade Austria's conservative government to revoke Schwarzenegger's citizenship.
Rarely, if ever, has Austria taken the extraordinary step of stripping someone of citizenship. Not even Kurt Waldheim, the former Austrian president and U.N. secretary-general linked to Nazi war crimes, had his citizenship revoked.
Pilz insists there are sufficient legal grounds to strip Schwarzenegger of his citizenship: specifically, a clause in Austria's nationality law stipulating that citizenship can be revoked if an Austrian "in the service of another country substantially damages the interests or reputation of the republic by his or her behavior."
"Capital punishment is unacceptable in Austria and in Europe, and no Austrian citizen may take part in it or arrange it," he said.
Beardslee, 61, convicted of killing two women over a drug deal almost a quarter-century ago, became the first inmate put to death by California in three years when he was given a lethal injection at San Quentin State Prison on Wednesday.
The execution came hours after Schwarzenegger rejected a clemency petition seeking to commute the death sentence to life without parole, and the California Supreme Court rejected two last-minute appeals. In Vienna, it triggered a small but spirited protest outside the U.S. Embassy.
The death penalty has eroded Austrians' affection for the local bodybuilder who emigrated to the United States and made it big.
In a straw vote held earlier in the week in the western province of Upper Austria, fewer than 25 percent said they considered Schwarzenegger fit to run the province.
It was a stark difference from six months ago, when Austria's post office giddily issued a new "Arnie" stamp and Austrian newspaper commentators urged Americans to amend the constitution to let foreign-born citizens like Schwarzenegger run for president.
Pilz's Green Party has been especially riled by the governor's pro-death penalty stance. In the southern city of Graz, near Schwarzenegger's birthplace, the Greens have led a drive to rename Schwarzenegger Stadium, a 15,350-seat soccer venue.
Schwarzenegger was born in 1947 in the village of Thal just outside Graz, where he began his bodybuilding career. He emigrated to the United States in 1968 and became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1984, but has retained his Austrian citizenship.