An Austrian court has sentenced a young Muslim couple to prison for posting a video on the Internet calling for terrorist attacks in Austria and Germany. The defendants' lawyer disputed their alleged ties to al Qaeda.
The pair was active in Islamic Internet groups and forums
A 21-year-old Austrian woman on Wednesday, March 12, was sentenced to 22 months in prison and her 22-year-old husband to four years for belonging to a terrorist organization, trying to blackmail the Austrian government and inciting a crime. It was Austria's first case of "home-grown" terrorist activity. The sentences were below the maximum of 10 years.
The Egyptian-born man, Mohamed M., was found guilty on charges of being involved in a March 2007 video that threatened to target Austria and Germany with terrorist attacks if they did not immediately withdraw their troops from Afghanistan.
"In standing by the United States ... you have provoked those whom you call terrorists to target you," said the voice on the film as German and Austrian flag appeared against a burning background.
The video threatened specific politicians
His was also charged with threatening to target the European Championships soccer tournament, jointly hosted this June by Austria and Switzerland, and European politicians on radical Islamic Internet forums.
Pair belonged to radical group
Mona S., who wore a veil and had earlier been excluded from four days of hearings for refusing to remove her head-to-toe covering, was charged with helping her husband. Austrian trial regulations require that a defendant's face be at least partially visible.
She mainly provided translation services, their lawyer Lennart Binder told reporters before the trial.
Binder said the couple, who was married according to Islam but not under Austrian law, had confessed to being members of the Internet group called Global Islamic Media Front. He denied that the group, which produced the threatening video in Arabic with German subtitles, had any tied to al Qaeda.
He also said the couple would appeal the verdict.
Both Germany and Austria have maintained troops in Afghanistan since 2002. Germany, whose force numbers over 3,000 soldiers, commands the NATO-led ISAF mission in the northern part of the country.