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TERRORISM

Syrian asylum seeker in court on terror charges

A Syrian man is on trial in Salzburg, accused of having fought with the so-called Islamic State group (Isis), before coming to Europe to claim asylum.

Syrian asylum seeker in court on terror charges
Salzburg regional court. Photo: Andreas Praefcke/Wikimedia

According to the prosecutor the 22-year-old Syrian man worked as a security guard for Isis and fought with them in several places in Syria until January 2015.

After that he’s believed to have travelled to Turkey and across the Mediterranean to Greece, where he joined other refugees along the Balkans route to Europe and claimed asylum in Salzburg.

On Monday the suspect told the judge that he had never joined Isis, and that during the time he is alleged to have fought with them he was working in a restaurant in Istanbul. He said that earlier he had fought with rebel forces against President Assad's government troops.

But prosecutors say that he boasted about having fought with Isis in a refugee centre in Salzburg. Police were able to gather evidence against him from his mobile phone, and from comments and photos of Isis atrocities that he posted on social media sites.

If found guilty, he faces up to ten years in prison. In a similar case, a 28-year-old Syrian man was sentenced to two years in prison.

Prosecutors are also due to press charges against a 26-year-old asylum seeker from Morocco, who investigators say planned terror attacks in Europe and probably had connections to the jihadists who carried out the November 13th Paris attacks which left 130 people dead.

CRIME

Case dropped against second Swiss man over Vienna attack ‘links’

Swiss prosecutors said Thursday they had dropped the case against a second Swiss man over alleged links to a deadly shooting rampage in Vienna due to a lack of evidence.

Armed police officers stand guard before the arrival of Austrian Chancellor Kurz and President of the European Council to pay respects to the victims of the recent terrorist attack in Vienna, Austria on November 9,2020. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)
Armed police officers stand guard before the arrival of Austrian Chancellor Kurz and President of the European Council to pay respects to the victims of the recent terrorist attack in Vienna, Austria on November 9,2020. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

The Office of the Attorney General (OAG), which last month decided to drop the case against one suspect, told AFP it had issued a discontinuation order in the case against a second man.

On November 2, 2020, convicted Islamic State sympathiser Kujtim Fejzulai killed four people in Vienna before being shot dead by police.

It was the first major attack in Austria in decades and the first blamed on a jihadist.

Two Swiss citizens who knew Fejzulai were arrested in the northeastern Swiss town of Winterthur just a day after the attack on suspicion they may have helped in its preparation.

‘How was it possible?’ Austrians left asking painful questions after Vienna terror shootings

The two, who were aged 18 and 24 at the time, were known to the police and were the targets of prior criminal cases over terror-linked offences.

The OAG acknowledged Thursday that no evidence had emerged that either man had participated in any way or had prior knowledge of the attack.

The older of the two men was meanwhile hit with a penalty in a separate case with no links to the Vienna file, the OAG said.

The penalty order, seen by Swiss media, indicated that he had been found guilty of violating Switzerland’s law banning Al-Qaeda, Islamic State and related organisations and of being in possession of “depictions of violence”.

According to the ATS news agency, an IS group video was found on his phone depicting people being executed and decapitated.

He was handed a six-month suspended prison sentence, a fine of 1,000 Swiss francs ($1,100, 950 euros), and three years’ probation, ATS said.

ANALYSIS: Vienna terror attack was ‘only a matter of time’

In light of this penalty, he would not be compensated for the 176 days he spent behind bars after his arrest following the Vienna attack, it added.

The OAG said a separate case was still pending against the younger of the two men, also on suspicion he breached the Swiss law banning Al-Qaeda, IS and related organisations, and over “allegations of depictions of violence”. “The presumption of innocence applies,” it stressed.

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