Couple Linked to Al Qaeda Online Video Threat to Face Trial Soon in Austria

A young married couple suspected of links to Al Qaeda will go on trial soon on federal terrorism charges stemming from the March 2007 online posting of a video threatening Austria and Germany with attacks, prosecutors said Tuesday.

The pair — both Austrian citizens of Arab origin — were arrested in September in connection with the video, which threatened the two countries with terrorist strikes if they did not withdraw military personnel from Afghanistan.

Authorities said the husband later told police that potential targets included the Vienna-based Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC, as well as U.N. agencies based in the Austrian capital, German government offices and prominent politicians in both countries.

They said the man, identified only as Egyptian-born Mohamed M., 22, mentioned the Austrian targets in Internet chat groups frequented by Islamic radicals. Prosecutors allege that his 20-year-old wife translated Arabic texts into German for the video.

Officials have not confirmed reports that another possible target was this summer's Euro 2008 soccer tournament, which is being co-hosted by Austria and Switzerland.

Canadian authorities are prosecuting a third suspect in the video threat. A fourth suspect who had been arrested in Austria since has been released.

Germany has about 3,000 troops in Afghanistan, but Austria maintains only three liaison officers.

A trial date was not immediately set but is expected to get under way sometime in the next three months, said Gerhard Jarosch, a spokesman for the Vienna public prosecutor's office.

In addition to the terrorism charges, the pair will be tried on charges of membership in a criminal organization, Jarosch said.

If convicted, they face a maximum penalty of 10 years' imprisonment.

Investigators say evidence suggests the video — which was posted on a German-language Web site and showed images of the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center — was produced by the Global Islamic Media Front, an al-Qaida propaganda group.

Austria's Interior Ministry says it is unaware of any evidence suggesting that a plot was in the works to carry out any terrorist attack in the politically neutral alpine country.

Although it warned several politicians that their names appeared on a list that had been circulated online, it maintains that none was ever deemed to have been in danger.