Austria court orders duo jailed for joining ISIS in Syria

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An Austrian court has sentenced two men to jail over their involvement with ISIS in Syria, a spokeswoman said Wednesday, following a high-profile trial in the country that had one of Europe’s largest per capita rates of ISIS fighters.

A Chechnya-born man who fled to Austria in 2004 was sentenced to six and a half years in jail, while an Austrian was sentenced to four and a half years in verdicts late Tuesday following a weeks-long trial, the Vienna court spokeswoman told AFP.

In 2013, the duo left Austria to join ISIS in Syria, according to the indictment cited by the APA agency. The first defendant stayed one and a half years, while the second just stayed several months.

Both can appeal the verdicts.

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Their recruiter Mirsad Omerovic – an extremist of Bosnian origin considered the central figure in Austria’s extremist scene – was also found guilty, the spokeswoman said.

Omerovic is already serving a 20-year prison sentence after a court in 2016 found him guilty of “belonging to a terrorist group,” and so no further jail term was ordered.

Initially seven people had been charged, including the duo’s wives, and the Chechnya-born man’s parents.

But the women – one of whom has already separated from her husband – were acquitted of the charges of complicity.

The Chechnya-born man’s father died in December, while his mother is believed to be on the run. An arrest warrant has been issued for her.

In 2017, authorities said that 300 people from Austria, which has a population of nine million, had travelled or attempted to travel to Syria since the civil war there began in 2011, one of the highest numbers per capita in the European Union.

More than a third has since returned with prosecutors securing numerous convictions.

Long spared from extremist attacks on its soil, Austria saw a 20-year-old convicted ISIS sympathizer shoot dead four people last November in downtown Vienna.

Police killed the gunman, and no one else in custody for allegedly helping him has been charged yet.

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