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Eight Iraqi men found guilty of gang-raping German woman in Austria

Four men took a heavily intoxicated German woman to an apartment where others were waiting to rape her. The men, some of whom had been granted refugee status, took turns raping the woman and took selfies with her.

An Austrian court found eight Iraqi men guilty on Thursday of gang-raping a German woman on New Year's Eve 2015/2016.

The men were handed sentences ranging from nine years to 13 years. One man was acquitted. Austrian daily "Kurier" reported the ruling was not binding and that the men said they would appeal the case.

Around midnight the 28-year-old woman, who was intoxicated, met four men in front of an apartment. 

They took the young woman into an apartment where five other Iraqi men were waiting.

The men, aged between 22 and 48, took turns raping and abusing the woman. The men had all either been granted asylum or had applied for it. The case fuelled anti-refugee sentiment in Austria, whose populace was sharply divided in the 2016 presidential elections. The case could influence refugee rhetoric ahead of its parliamentary elections in 2018.

At the time of the men's arrest, Austria's far-right Freedom Party seized on the case to campaign for stricter immigration policies.

Defense lawyer Andreas Reichenbach suggested the sentences imposed Thursday served as a warning for asylum-seekers.

"As we all know, asylum-seekers don't have the best image here in Austria," Associated Press quoted him as saying. "I think that this surely played a certain role, to make it clear to these people that when they come to Austria that such behavior won't be tolerated," he said.

Authorities had not yet decided whether to deport the men, Karl-Heinz Grundböck, spokesman for the Ministry of the Interior, told "Kurier."

A defendant covers his face at the beginning of his trial on gang-raping a German tourist in Vienna (picture alliance/AP Photo/P.Jenne)

Austrian media reported several of the defendants burst into tears upon hearing the sentence

Separated from her friend

The woman, from the northern German state of Lower Saxony, was celebrating at a square in central Vienna when she became separated from her friend. She said that when she awoke she did not recall what happened between about 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. but she knew something had happened, according to police spokesman Paul Eidenberger.

Just one defendant showed remorse and admitted to the crime, while others claimed they were not at the crime scene, or that the woman gave consent.

The suspects, which included a father and son, took selfie photos with the victims.

The woman subsequently suffered serious psychological problems. "Nothing makes me happy anymore," her lawyer quoted her as saying.

A court statement said that the victim was awarded 25,000 euros (US$26,200) in damages.

Police used video surveillance, DNA samples and other evidence to piece together their investigation.

aw/rg (AP, dpa)

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