A nephew of late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein has requested asylum in Austria after being picked up by police in a routine identity check, the interior ministry said Friday, confirming media reports.
“His identity has been confirmed without a doubt,” ministry spokesman Karl-Heinz Grundboeck told AFP, naming the nephew as Bashar N., 42.
He denied however that there was an international arrest warrant against the man, as reported in the press, although he said he was wanted for questioning by Iraqi authorities.
The nephew was stopped by police around noon (1000 GMT) Thursday at the train station in Traiskirchen, some 10 kilometres (six miles) south of Vienna, Grundboeck said.
He had no papers on him and requested asylum when the police tried to do a routine identity check.
Bashar N. then told police he was a nephew of Saddam Hussein and that he had flown to Austria from Turkey, Grundboeck said, adding that this last detail was still being checked.
The Iraqi’s identity was confirmed after he was fingerprinted.
Two other Iraqi men who were with him when he was stopped have also requested asylum but there was otherwise no link between him and them, Grundboeck also said.
Hussein’s nephew has now been brought to a secret place as a protective measure, while his asylum request is being examined, he added, noting that Bashar N. was being processed like a regular asylum seeker.
Austrian police have not been in touch with Iraqi authorities, and Baghdad’s request for questioning will only be considered after asylum procedures in Austria have been carried out, the spokesman also said.
Austrian broadcaster ORF reported Friday that Bashar N. was wanted in Iraq amid efforts to bring the many relatives of Saddam Hussein, toppled by the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and hanged three years later, to justice.
Police routinely conduct checks in and around Traiskirchen, which is home to a centre for asylum-seekers and is close to the Hungarian border, favoured by immigrants wishing to enter the country illegally.