Trial For Uzbek Man Charged In Stockholm Attack Set For February 13
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A 39-year-old Uzbek asylum seeker charged with carrying out the deadly truck attack in Stockholm in April 2017 is scheduled to go on trial on February 13 on terrorism charges.
Rakhmat Akilov is suspected of stealing a truck and mowing down a crowd of people on a pedestrian street in the Swedish capital, killing five people.
He faces charges of "terrorism and attempted terrorism" in the trial, which is scheduled to run through May. A verdict is expected in June.
The trial is expected to focus on Akilov's motives and whether the attack was premeditated and if there was a religious motive.
He is scheduled to address the court on February 20.
A joint investigation by RFE/RL's Uzbek and Tajik services and Swedish news agency TT has found that Akilov was in direct contact with alleged Islamic State (IS) militants in Tajikistan before, during, and after the deadly April 7 attack.
The Islamic State extremist group did not claim responsibility for 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 the IS group.
Akilov, who is in pretrial detention in Sweden, faces a life sentence if convicted.
Akilov, a construction worker, was arrested a few hours after the incident, and police said he confessed the next day, saying he wanting to mow down "infidels" in the attack.
Akilov's lawyer, Johan Eriksson, said in January that his client "admits committing a terrorist act" and "admits that he should be convicted" and expelled from Sweden if he is not sentenced to life in prison.
Eriksson added that Akilov had not expected to survive the attack.
According to the investigation, Swedish police found the contacts of several people described as "terrorist-related" on messaging apps like Zello and Telegram on Akilov's mobile phone.
The contacts had aliases like Abu Aisha and Abu Umar, which RFE/RL found to be the same names used by alleged Tajik IS recruiters.
Akilov is a member of the ethnic Tajik minority in Uzbekistan.
RFE/RL Uzbek Service correspondent Sirojiddin Tolibov said they were aliases that only senior IS militants would use.
Irina Zamanova, a 38-year-old Ukrainian who lost her lower right leg in the attack, told AFP news agency that it was important for her to attend the trial and to testify.
"I was walking down the street...and you don't expect something like that to happen...All of a sudden, this truck ran me over, she said.
Several truck attacks have been perpetrated in Europe and the United States in recent years.
The deadliest attack, claimed by IS, came in Nice, on July 14, 2016, when a truck rammed crowds leaving a celebration of France's national holiday, killing 86 people.
Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.