Vienna man convicted of training with Syrian militants

by Reuters
Tuesday, 1 July 2014 13:49 GMT

VIENNA, July 1 (Reuters) - A man accused of travelling to Syria to receive weapons training from Islamist militants was sentenced in Austria on Tuesday to 21 months in jail, in the latest case to highlight the lure of the Syrian conflict for radicalised young men based in Europe.

The Vienna-based 21-year-old had denied charges of joining a terrorist organisation, which is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

The unnamed defendant was arrested in December as he returned to Austria from what he had described as a holiday in his birthplace of Turkey. Prosecutors said he instead want to a training camp on the Syrian-Turkish border.

Judge Norbert Gerstberger said the man joined up with the Nusra Front, al Qaeda's Syrian wing, and got "at least ideological instruction and basic weapons training" at a camp north of Aleppo, although he was a low-level participant, the Austria Press Agency reported.

A court spokeswoman confirmed the verdict, which is subject to appeals from both the prosecution and the defence.

Many hundreds of young Europeans are estimated to have travelled to fight against President Bashar al-Assad in Syria's civil war, and European security officials are concerned that some of those returning from the uprising could stage attacks back home.

Three people were shot dead at the Jewish Museum in Brussels in May, and a Frenchman thought to have returned recently from Syria was arrested over the killings.

Austria is home to roughly half a million Muslims or 6 percent of the population, and about 100 are estimated to be fighting Assad's government.

Austrian authorities last month arrested a 41-year-old imam of Chechen origin suspected of radicalising Muslims and recruiting them to fight in Syria. The suspect has denied the allegations. (Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

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