Austria tries asylum seeker over Syria murders

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Damaged buildings following conflict in the district of Homs, Syria, 20 July 2017Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
The suspect is said to have claimed responsibility for 20 deaths in Homs

An asylum seeker charged by Austrian authorities with 20 murders in Syria has had his case adjourned until the end of March.

The 27-year-old man, who was arrested in western Austria in June, faces the charge of "murder in the context of terrorism".

He is accused of shooting unarmed or wounded soldiers following a battle in Homs, Syria.

His lawyers have said that he was severely traumatised at the time.

The man - who has not been named - denies the charges. According to Der Standard, he is a stateless Palestinian who grew up in a refugee camp in Homs.

Austrian media said the suspect told others at a refugee shelter that he had shot dead government soldiers when he was fighting with an Islamist rebel group called the Farouq Brigade, linked to the Free Syrian Army.

According to reports, the suspect was placed under investigation when officials were alerted to his account of events in Syria last year.

Austria is unable to extradite the man to face charges in Syria because of the ongoing civil war.

The decision to try him in the country for his alleged crimes committed elsewhere is thought to be a first in Austria.

Killing injured soldiers is prohibited under the Geneva Convention.

Officials have said the actions that he has allegedly described qualified as terrorism and could be prosecuted under international counter-terrorism agreements.