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VIENNA, Jan 11 (Reuters) - An Austrian court has sentenced a leading neo-Nazi figure to nine years in jail for his role in launching an extreme-right website that glorified Nazism.
Gottfried Kuessel, 54, had denied any wrongdoing and told the court he had turned over a new leaf since serving a previous jail term for neo-Nazi activity, which is banned in Austria.
But heeding prosecutors' description of Kuessel as a prime leader of the extreme right, the jury voted 5-3 late on Thursday to convict him. Two other defendants got sentences of seven and four-and-a-half years.
Kuessel's attorney, Michael Dohr, said he would appeal against the conviction.
"I had expected an acquittal because of the very thin evidence. There was only circumstantial evidence, not more," he said in remarks broadcast by Austria's ORF radio.
Nazi Germany annexed Austria in 1938, and a debate still smoulders on whether Austrians were Hitler's first victims or willing accomplices. Austria's Jewish population was nearly wiped out in the ensuing Holocaust.
Jewish leaders have warned of late against what they called creeping tolerance of anti-Semitism in Austria.
A rabbi said in September that neo-Nazi soccer fans had verbally abused him while police looked on, and a far-right politician drew criticism from the country's president for posting a cartoon on his website that was widely seen as anti-Semitic.
(Reporting by Michael Shields; Ediitng by Angus MacSwan)