Six go on trial in Sweden terrorism case

One of the suspects is also believed to have been in contact with Rakhmat Akilov, above, a radicalized Uzbek asylum seeker who mowed down pedestrians in Stockholm in April 2017, killing five people. (AFP)
Updated 07 January 2019
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Six go on trial in Sweden terrorism case

  • The prosecution claims that the six men sent funds to Daesh to finance its terrorism operations
  • One of the suspects is also believed to have been in contact with radicalized asylum seeker Rakhmat Akilov

STOCKHOLM: Six Uzbek and Kyrgyz nationals living in Sweden went on trial in Stockholm on Monday accused of financing terrorism, three of them also charged with planning a terror attack.
“If the terrorist crime had been carried out, it could have seriously hurt Sweden,” the prosecution said in its charge sheet.
The first day of the trial focused on the prosecution’s claim that the six men sent funds to Daesh to finance its terrorism operations.
The prosecution argued that one of the men, 34-year-old Akromion Ergashev of Uzbekistan, sent almost 18,000 kronor ($2,000) to a middleman in Turkey, who in turn sent it to two Daesh supporters in Syria.
The prosecution presented chats on encrypted mobile phone apps and account statements as evidence.
The other five suspects were identified in court documents as Uzbek nationals Bakhtior Umarov, 30, Gulom Tadjiyev, 39, Shoahmad Mahmudov, 24, and David Idrisson, 46, and 39-year-old Kyrgyz national Atabek Abdullayev.
Abdullayev, Idrisson and Umarov are also accused of planning a terror attack in Sweden.
The prosecution believes they acquired large amounts of chemicals to make explosives, as well as gas masks, walkie-talkies and other military materials as part of their plot.
Photographs of crowded locations in Stockholm were found in some of the suspects’ phones, suggesting they may have been possible targets, according to the prosecution.
During a police raid in Stromsund, 600 kilometers north of Stockholm, in late April, neighbors told the Dagens Nyheter newspaper they saw police removing about 15 large plastic chemical containers from a shed on an empty property.
One of the suspects is also believed to have been in contact with Rakhmat Akilov, a radicalized Uzbek asylum seeker who mowed down pedestrians in Stockholm with a stolen truck in April 2017, killing five people.
Akilov was sentenced to life in prison in June 2018.
All six reject all of the charges against them.
The trial is taking place at a special high-security Stockholm courtroom, with the defendants sitting behind a bulletproof glass wall.


Amid wall debate, pope visits Panama with migration in mind

Updated 8 min 54 sec ago
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Amid wall debate, pope visits Panama with migration in mind

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis is looking to leave the sex abuse scandal buffeting his papacy behind as he heads to Central America amid a standoff over President Donald Trump’s promised wall at the US-Mexico border and a new caravan of migrants heading north.
History’s first Latin American pope, the son of Italian immigrants to Argentina, has made the plight of migrants and refugees a cornerstone of his papacy. He is also expected to offer words of encouragement to young people gathered in Panama for World Youth Day, the church’s once-every-three-year pep rally that aims to invigorate the next generation of Catholics in their faith.
Panama Archbishop Jose Domingo Ulloa said Francis’ message is likely to resonate with young Central Americans who see their only future free of violence and poverty in migrating to the US — “young people who often fall into the hands of drug traffickers and so many other realities that our young people face.”
The pope is expected to urge young people to create their own opportunities, while calling on governments do their share as well.
The visit is taking place as the US government remains partly shut down in a standoff between the Trump administration and Democrats over funding for Trump’s promised border wall.
Francis famously has called for “bridges, not walls.” After celebrating Mass in 2016 on the Mexican side of the US border, he denounced anyone who wants to build a wall to keep out migrants as “not Christian.”
Crowds are expected to be smaller than usual for this World Youth Day — only about 150,000 people had registered as of last week — but thousands more will certainly throng Francis’ main events, which include a vigil and a final Mass on Sunday. The Vatican conceded that the January date doesn’t suit school vacations in Europe or North America, both of which typically send huge numbers of pilgrims to World Youth Day gatherings.
Francis’ trip, the first in a year packed with foreign travel, comes at a critical moment in the papacy as the Catholic hierarchy globally is facing a crisis in credibility for covering up decades of cases of priests molesting young people.
The pope is expected to soon rule on the fate of former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the high-powered US archbishop accused of molesting minors and adults. And he is hosting church leaders at the Vatican next month on trying to chart a way forward for the global church.
Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti said there were no plans for Francis to meet with abuse survivors in Panama. Central America hasn’t yet seen the explosion of sex abuse cases that have shattered trust in the Catholic hierarchy in Chile, the US and other parts of the world.
This is the first papal visit to Panama since St. John Paul II was there during a 1983 regional tour that famously included an unscheduled stop at the tomb of Archbishop Oscar Romero in El Salvador. Romero had been gunned down by right-wing death squads three years earlier, at the start of El Salvador’s civil war, for having spoken out on behalf of the poor.
Salvadoran bishops had hoped Francis would follow suit and make a stop in El Salvador this time to pay his respects at Romero’s tomb since Francis canonized him in October. But the Vatican said a Salvador leg was never really in the cards.
Nevertheless, Gisotti said Romero would likely loom large at the Panama gathering, given he is such a point of reference for young Central American Catholics who grew up learning about his defense of the poor.
The Panama visit is also the first by a pope since the Vatican embassy played a crucial role during the 1989 US invasion of Panama, when dictator Manuel Noriega took refuge there and requested asylum on Christmas Eve after four days on the run trying to escape US troops.
Noriega eventually surrendered, bringing to an end one of the more unusual US military operations: It involved US troops blasting heavy metal and rock music — including Van Halen’s “Panama” — at the embassy to try to force Noriega out.
Noriega, a onetime US ally, eventually served a 17-year drug sentence in the United States. He died in 2017 after his final years were spent in a Panamanian prison for the murder of political opponents during his 1983-89 regime.