Defendants deny all charges in Austrian Islamist terror case

4th March 2008, Comments 0 comments

Judges began to hear Austria’s first case over Islamist terrorism.

Vienna -- Cultures clashed at Vienna's provincial court on Monday, as judges heard Austria's first-ever case of alleged Islamist terrorism and banned one defendant for refusing to remove her burka.

Two defendants, Mohamed M. and Mona S., aged 22 and 21, face charges of membership in a terrorist organization, having allegedly planned bomb attacks in Austria during the upcoming European football tournament, on European politicians and producing an Islamist threat video distributed on the internet.

Prosecutors accused Mohamed M. of membership of "al-Qaeda, or respectively other internationally active Islamist terrorist networks", spreading their terrorist ideology and goals in the German-speaking world. This posed a "serious danger which needed to be countered," prosecutor Michael Klackl said.

Mona S., who is married to her partner according to Muslim law, was accused of assisting him by rendering translation services.

The couple, both second-generation migrants of a Middle Eastern background, pleaded not guilty to the charges. If found guilty, they face lengthy prison sentences.

Mohamed M. told the court he had exaggerated his extremist credentials with his peers of the Global Islam Media Front, an Internet platform, in order to gain their confidence.

But he made clear his political viewpoints, saying he was uncomfortable living in Austria under democratic laws.

"Democracy has nothing to do with Islam," he told court, stressing that Afghanistan's Taliban regime came close to his view of an Islamic state.

Court proceedings started with a bang, when the judges banned Mona S. from court for refusing to remove her burka, as she said was dictated by her religion.

According to Austrian legislation, faces must be at least partially visible for judges and jury to be able to judge reactions during the trial.

The defence counsel accused court of being biased against his clients and accused police of having illegally obtained evidence by installing spy software, the Austrian press agency said.

There was not the slightest evidence regarding Mohamed M.'s al- Qaeda membership, defense lawyer Lennart Binder told court.

The challenge Austria's justice system faces by what amounts to the first case of home-grown terrorism was further highlighted by accusations of abuse leveled against authorities ahead of the trial.

While being under arrest in the weeks leading up to the trial after their arrest on September 12, Mohamed M. said he was beaten, suffered sleep deprivation and was refused participation in Friday prayers.

The trial is expected to continue until Thursday.

DPA with Expatica

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