Suspected terrorists accused in Stockholm

Two Iraqi men are set to stand trial, accused of leading a Swedish terrorist cell with connections to the extremist religious leader Mullah Krekar. Charges are expected to be filed Monday for terrorism and suicide attacks in Iraq.

The lawyers for the men, 25 and 29 years old, say their clients claim innocence. “My client has high hopes to be exonerated,” said Peter Mutvei, who represents the elder man.

Scheduled to start on Thursday, the trial is the first terror case to come to court in Sweden. It is the second time Sweden’s newly strengthened terror law is put to the test.

Prosecutor Agneta Hilding Qvarnström, said: “We have telephone calls and other evidence (connecting them to terror attacks in Iraq). I hope that the evidence we present will show that these individuals are connected to these organizations.”

Both men have lived in Sweden since 2001 and 2002. They are accused of raising huge funds for the Ansar al-Islam terrorist network in Iraq. Ansar al-Islam is believed to be an offshoot of al-Quaida.

Attorney Ola Salomonsson, who represents the 25-year old, says the man has indeed raised money “but for social purposes.” Salmononsson does, however, admit to Swedish radio that “we will have to explain certain things–– both of the accused will.”

Mutvei says: “There may be misunderstandings about what people are talking about (and what people interpret from bugs). Maybe it’s about something completely different.”

Both suspects have been jailed for about a year while Sweden’s security police gathered about 2,000 pages of evidence. A gag order prevents any of the lawyers from revealing details about the case.

In February 2004, suicide bombers went in to the Kurdish party PUK and KDP headquarters in Arbil, northern Iraq, and set off bombs, killing 117 people and injuring hundreds more. DN reports that similar terror attacks in Najaf and Kerbala are involved in this case.

Ansar al-Islam is a terror network created after September 11, 2001. One of its founders is the leader Mullah Krekar, who has lived in Norway for several years but was recently sentenced to 15 years in jail in Jordan.

DN reports that the 29-year old is a native of Arbil, where the suicide bombers hit, and that he too lived in Norway for a short time. “Säpo believes that the 29-year old is the leader (of Ansar al-Islam) in Sweden,” said a source to DN.

If convicted, both men could face life in prison.