VIENNA (Reuters) - An Austrian court sentenced three Afghan asylum seekers to prison on Tuesday over the gang-rape of a woman at a train station last year, a case that fueled debate over immigrants and security during the country's presidential election.

The rape of a 21-year-old in a station toilet in Vienna last April was one of the first serious crimes committed by asylum seekers after Austria was swept up in Europe's migration crisis in 2015, and was covered at length by the tabloid press.

Coverage of the attack and others like it appeared to play into the hands of the anti-Islam Freedom Party (FPO), which argues that migrants pose a security risk. The FPO presidential candidate last year came close to becoming the first freely elected far-right head of state in Europe since World War Two.

Although detailed statistics are not published, the police have said that in general there has been a rise in petty crimes since the migrant influx but no significant increase in serious crimes like murder and rape.


The Vienna court sentenced two Afghan 18-year-olds to six years in prison and one 16-year-old to five years, a court spokeswoman said, adding that the maximum sentence was halved to 7-1/2 years because the accused were under 18 when the attack took place.

It was not immediately clear whether they would appeal.

Austria has not seen sexual assaults on the same scale as those in the German city of Cologne on New Year's Eve more than a year ago, but attacks involving immigrants, like a series of sexual assaults in the city of Innsbruck a month ago, continue to attract close media scrutiny.

(Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Catherine Evans)

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