Wed, 14 Nov 2018

Stockholm Truck Attack Suspect Goes On Trial

13 Feb 2018, 21:07 GMT+10

The suspect in a deadly truck attack that stunned Sweden in April 2017 has pleaded guilty on the first day of his trial in a Stockholm court.

At the hearing on February 13, Rakhmat Akilov's lawyer said the Uzbekistan native was bent on causing 'fear' and driving Sweden out of the U.S.-led coalition against the extremist group Islamic State (IS).

Akilov is accused of stealing a truck and plowing it into a crowd on a pedestrian street in Stockholm on April 7, killing five people.

The prosecution has requested a life sentence for the 39-year-old, who police say confessed to the attack and told them he wanted to run down what he called 'infidels.'

'Akilov took the truck...and drove it the way the prosecutor described. He killed five people and physically injured 10,' defense lawyer Johan Eriksson told the Stockholm district court hearing.

Eriksson said his client aimed 'to instigate fear and to get Sweden to end its participation in the international coalition against [IS].'

Akilov is scheduled to address the court on February 20. The trial is scheduled to run through May, with a verdict expected the next month.

No organization has claimed responsibility for the attack.

But a joint investigation by RFE/RL's Uzbek and Tajik services and Swedish news agency TT found that Akilov was in direct contact with alleged Islamic State (IS) militants from Tajikistan before, during, and after the Stockholm attack.

Tajik Interior Minister Ramazon Rahimzoda told RFE/RL that Swedish authorities have not been in contact with Dushanbe over Akilov's ties with suspected Tajik members of IS.

Akilov, a construction worker and an ethnic Tajik from Uzbekistan whose Swedish asylum application was rejected in 2016, was arrested a few hours after the Stockholm attack, and police said he confessed the next day.

Eriksson said in January that his client had not expected to survive the attack.

Prosecutors say the suspect wanted to 'create fear in the population at large' and 'force the Swedish government and parliament to halt Sweden's participation in an international training mission in Iraq' aimed at helping the country to dislodge the IS group.

According to the investigation, Swedish police found the contacts of several people described as 'terrorist-related' on messaging apps such as Zello and Telegram on Akilov's mobile phone.

The contacts had aliases including Abu Aisha and Abu Umar, which RFE/RL found to be the same names used by alleged Tajik IS recruiters.

RFE/RL's Uzbek Service correspondent Sirojiddin Tolibov said they were aliases that only senior IS militants would use.

Several truck attacks have been perpetrated in Europe and the United States in recent years.

The deadliest attack, claimed by IS militants, occurred in Nice in July 2016, when a truck rammed crowds leaving a celebration of France's national holiday, killing 86 people.

Uzbek national Sayfullo Saipov is suspected of plowing a rented truck into pedestrians and cyclists in New York City on October 31, killing eight people.

With reporting by AFP, dpa, TT, and RFE/RL's Uzbek and Tajik services

Copyright (c) 2014. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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