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Austrian court sentences Palestinian asylum seeker to life imprisonment

Austrian authorities detaining Palestinian national Abdel Karim Abu Habel [Twitter]
Austrian authorities detaining Palestinian national Abdel Karim Abu Habel [Twitter]

An Austrian court sentenced a Palestinian asylum seeker to life imprisonment on Monday. Abdel Karim Abu Habel, 27, was found guilty of being a member of Hamas and planning attacks against Israeli targets, apparently based on “evidence” the court received from Israel. He is married with two children.

While the Austrians claimed that the refugee from Gaza had contacted two Palestinians living in Israel to attack the targets, his family pointed out that 12 years ago an Israeli court sentenced their son to 9 years in prison on the same charges; he was released in 2013. He has already served his sentence, they insisted.

According to his father, Mohammed Abu Habel, the family is surprised at the sentence; he called it unfair and unjust. “My son is only guilty of obstructing police work for five hours,” he told Quds Press. “He did not break Austrian law.” The other charges, he added, are the same for which he spent nine years in an Israeli jail.

Abdel Karim left the besieged Gaza Strip in February 2015 to go to Turkey and then to Austria through an official visa. He was arrested there following cooperation between Israel’s Mossad spy agency and the Austrian police. His father expressed regret that the Palestinian Embassy in Vienna did not help him to find where his son was or even find out the date of his trial.

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Palestinian rights groups, meanwhile, warned of the possibility that Abu Habel might be extradited to Israel. The Prisoners’ Centre for Studies has questioned the validity of the indictment against him, which includes acts related to Israel committed outside Austria. The Palestinian Authority has been requested to follow-up on this case and prevent Abu Habel’s extradition.

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