Ten alleged extremists on trial in Vienna

Ten alleged extremists on trial in Vienna
Vienna Criminal Court. Photo: Wikimedia
Ten suspects who allegedly planned to join the militant group Islamic State (Isis) are currently on trial at Vienna Criminal Court, amid high security.

The Vienna-based suspects, nine Chechens and one Turkish national, were arrested in August last year as they attempted to leave Austria and travel to Syria. Police apprehended them as the group tried to cross the border in two cars.

They have been charged with participating in a terrorist organization.

In a statement to the court, prosecutor Stefanie Schön said that should the suspects have reached Syria they would have not only taken part in fighting, but also planned to support Isis logistically, financially, and help build infrastructure and provide other assistance.

Nine of the defendants declared themselves not guilty of the charges, claiming they had nothing to do with Isis. Three suspects denied even planning to travel to Syria.

One defendant, a 22-year-old Chechen man, plead guilty, although his lawyer Michael Schnarch claimed he was a victim of Isis propaganda and had been promised a wife in Syria.

The Chechen said he had been told at the mosque he visited in Vienna that good Muslims go and fight with Isis. Schnarch said he was in fact “one of the most peaceful people I have known”.  

A 26-year-old defendant said he was simply looking for “freedom and a job”.

Some of the men are believed to have been radicalized in the Altun-Alem mosque in Vienna’s Leopoldstadt district – under the influence of ‘hate’ preacher Mirsad O., who is now in Graz prison awaiting trial for alleged terrorist activities.