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CRIME

Armed fare-dodger jailed for 12 years

An Austrian man trying to evade police after being caught without a ticket in Zürich in 2013 was jailed this week for pulling a gun on his pursuers and firing several shots.

Armed fare-dodger jailed for 12 years
This is not the weapon used by the perpetrator. Photo: Police

The 49-year-old man, originally from Villach in the Austrian province of Carinthia, had a residence permit in Switzerland.  In February 2013, he was caught by fare inspectors traveling on a bus in Zürich without a ticket.

He was confronted by the inspectors, who raised the alarm with police when the man refused to cooperate or identify himself.  When officers arrived, the man absconded.

The police gave chase, when the man suddenly pulled out a pistol and fired five shots at the police.  Fortunately, no one was injured.

Eventually, the man barricaded himself inside the home of a retired couple, compounding his crimes with charges of illegal imprisonment.  

After threatening the pensioners with his weapon, he stole the woman's bike, and continued his escape on two wheels.

Police eventually tracked him down some hours later, and arrested him.

The man claimed in court this week that he had the weapon with him because he was planning to sell it to another man.  He was under the influence of drugs and alcohol, and acted without thinking out of fear and panic, and never wanted to hurt anyone.

In the Zürich district court this week, the 49-year-old Austrian has been found guilty of multiple attempts at homicide, multiple counts of endangering life & liberty and weapon-related offenses.  He has been sentenced to twelve years' imprisonment and outpatient therapy for his addiction issues.

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CRIME

Austrian people smuggler jailed over deaths of Syrians in minivan

An Austrian court on Monday sentenced a people smuggler to seven years in prison over the deaths of two Syrians who suffocated in the crammed minivan he was driving, Austria's news agency reported.

Austrian people smuggler jailed over deaths of Syrians in minivan

The bodies of the two men were discovered last October when Austrian authorities stopped and searched a van at the border with Hungary.

Thirty people in total were crammed in the vehicle, whose driver fled the scene but was later arrested in Latvia and extradited.

The 19-year-old Latvian was found guilty of people smuggling and causing fatal injuries, but was not found guilty of murder, APA reported.

READ MORE: Austrian police warn public about new ‘fake cops’ scam

He said he would accept the verdict, but the prosecution can still appeal it, APA said.

A court spokeswoman could not immediately be reached by AFP. 

Austria’s interior ministry announced in May that police had smashed a group believed to have smuggled tens of thousands of mostly Syrians, including the two found suffocated, from Hungary to Austria.

A total of 205 people suspected to be linked to the group have been arrested in central and eastern Europe, the ministry said.

Those smuggled, including children, were trying to reach western European countries, including Germany and France.

The October discovery of the dead men recalled a dire event in August 2015 when 71 people from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan suffocated in the back of an air-tight van where they had been hidden by people smugglers.

The bodies, including those of three children and a baby, were discovered in Austria but they had died while still on the other side of the border.

Almost four years later, the Hungarian courts sentenced their smugglers to life imprisonment.

The emotion aroused by that tragedy triggered a brief opening of the borders to hundreds of thousands of people wishing to reach Western Europe.

But Austria and other European countries have since fortified borders to stop people smuggling.

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