The teenager, a native of Chechnya, has already served a prison sentence for armed robbery. He became radicalized in prison and began posting videos of Isis beheadings online.
He began serving a 14-month sentence for armed robbery, assault and extortion last summer. Prosecutors said that he came into contact with Islamic extremists both while in juvenile detention in Gerasdorf and in Vienna’s Josefstadt prison.
He told the court that he was first told about Isis by a fellow prisoner in Josefstadt. He said that after his release he found that many among his circle of friends had become increasingly religious. ‘Friends of mine had gone to Syria and died there,” he said.
He added that an uncle and a cousin of his had been in Syria and court transcripts showed that he had kept in close contact with his uncle – promising that they would meet in the near future.
The 18-year-old even created and shared his own propaganda video for Isis – and told friends that he planned to travel to Syria as soon as possible – despite having fled the conflict in Chechnya with his family when he was five years old.
His lawyer Mirsad Musliu told the court that his client was hugely traumatised by having grown up in the Chechen Republic, during the wars between Chechen rebels and the Russian military. “Other children his age were playing in sandpits – he was watching as people were killed,” Musliu said.
To avoid having to travel alone to Syria, the 18-year-old contacted three girls via the messenger services WhatsApp and Telegram, and became engaged to them under Islamic law. He said that he had a desperate need “to belong to something” and that he wanted to impress the girls by telling them he was travelling to a war zone – but that in reality he had never really intended to go to Syria.
When asked if he is aware of who Isis is fighting against in Syria, the accused admitted that he didn’t actually know: ‘I just know that they are fighting for religion.” He will have to serve an extra ten months on his sentence, having been granted an early release after his previous conviction for armed robbery.