Vienna imam tried over teen jihadists

The imam of a Vienna mosque told the District Criminal Court on Tuesday he had nothing to do with the disappearance of two young girls who left Austria in April to fight in Syria's civil war.

Vienna imam tried over teen jihadists
Photo: APA

"I have never seen the girls," said the imam, who goes by the name Ebu Tejma.

The tabloid daily – Österreich – claimed the 15 and 16 year-old girls of Bosnian origin were "driven" to the so-called holy war in Syria by the imam, who preaches a particularly radical form of Salafism at the Altun-Alem mosque in Vienna's second district.

The 32 year-old preacher has gone so far as to file a legal complaint against the media for misrepresentation.

"There are no facilities for women in our mosque. There is no place for women," he told Judge Gerald Wagner.

The newspaper has "totally ruined my reputation. I have never spoken to the girls. My name has been dragged through the mud."

However, the defendant's legal representative, Peter Zöchbauer, wants to examine the evidence, suggesting it is also possible that he came in contact with minors outside the mosque.

Zöchbauer named a witness he claims can confirm the imam had "confronted (the girls) with religious content."

The hearing has been adjourned until early October.

Before setting the date, the judge played Youtube clips in which the imam was shown preaching.

Along with praise of Osama bin Laden, he also mentioned "duty" to a "defensive war".

The imam described the sequences as being taken out of context.

"If I said so, I was not right in the head. I do not recommend even adult men to go into battle." 

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