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Chechen accused of fighting with ISIL goes on trial in Austria

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By Euronews
Chechen accused of fighting with ISIL goes on trial in Austria

The trial has begun in Austria of a Chechen man accused of fighting with ISIL.

Identified only as Magomed Z., it is claimed he trained with Islamic State militants in Syria between July and December 2013, fought with the group, adopted its self-proclaimed nationality and sent it money. He has pleaded not guilty.

At the start of the hearing, his lawyer Wolfgang Blaschitz said:“I will do my best to ensure everything is done without emotions involved, without any demonisation of anyone or anything and without any kind of undue exaggeration.”

Responding to images showing the defendant holding weapons, Blaschitz said he was simply out to impress women.

The lawyer also said Islamic State had formed only in early 2014, so his client could not have fought with them in 2013.

“Of course the political environment does not lend itself to promoting the assumption of innocence,” Blaschitz told reporters.

Islamic State has existed in its current form since June 2014, while its precursor organisation, The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isis), was established in April 2013.

With the fear factor high in Europe after the Paris attacks, security was tight in the courtroom in the city of Krems. Four policemen in bulletproof vests and balaclavas shielded the 30-year-old Russian national from cameras as he arrived for the trial.

Magomed Z claims he went to Syria only to help refugees and search for the son of a relative.

“Jihad brings only war, brings only suffering,” he said quietly through an interpreter.

“I myself experienced war in Chechnya. I know what happened to us, having nothing to eat. We ate grass. I saw the images of war on the internet and wanted to help.”

He faces 10 years in jail if convicted.

Vienna says that around 170 people, half of them Chechens, have travelled from Austria to fight with jihadists in the Middle East.