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Austria jails imam and three others accused of running IS recruitment group

The imam was accused of grooming young men for the militant group [Getty]

Date of publication: 18 October, 2019

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An imam received a seven year jail sentence for running a group that recruited young men in Austria to the Islamic State in Syria.

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An Austrian court on Thursday sentenced an imam and three other men to jail for running a religious group that recruited young men for the so-called Islamic State (IS) group.

The court in Graz, the capital of Styria state, sentenced the imam to seven years in jail. 

The three men received six-year, five-year and five-month suspended jail terms for their links to IS in Syria.  

Two other men were tried but acquitted.

All of the accused were born in Turkey and were found to be involved with the group founded by the 47-year-old imam, who has denied radicalising young men to recruit them for IS.

The others accused have also maintained their innocence, and the verdicts can be appealed.

Like other European countries, Austria saw a wave of people - many of them minors and some young women - leave the country to join IS in Syria and Iraq.

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In 2016, a Muslim preacher known as Ebu Tejma at the centre of an Austrian jihad propaganda network was sentenced to 20 years in jail for "brainwashing" dozens of people aged between 14 and 30.

Earlier this month, Syria's Kurds handed over to Austria two orphaned toddlers whose mother had joined the Islamic State group, an official said, in the first such repatriation to the European country.

Their Austrian mother joined IS aged just 15 years old in 2014, the year the extremist group swept across large parts of Syria and Iraq and declared a "caliphate" there.

After years of fighting, Syria's Kurds hold thousands of suspected foreign IS members in detention and camps: men and women, but also some 8,000 children - more than half of whom are under the age of five.

The United Nations says hundreds of them are unaccompanied.

The Kurdish authorities have repeatedly called for Western countries to repatriate their nationals linked to IS, but they have been largely reluctant.

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