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'Romario' appeal halted after suspect's flight

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'Romario' appeal halted after suspect's flight
11:28 CEST+02:00
Friends and relatives of Ahmed "Romario" Ibrahim Ali, who was stabbed to death last autumn near Stockholm, were stunned to learn on Tuesday that the prime suspect in the 23-year-old's killing had fled the country.

The 18-year-old suspect, who along with two others had been acquitted of murder charges by the Attunda District Court in February, has left Sweden for Somalia, according to his lawyer.

“I have received confirmation from his father that he is in Somalia and plans to be there for the foreseeable future,” said attorney Johan Åkermark to the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper.

As a result of the 18-year-old's absence, the Svea Court of Appeal decided on Tuesday afternoon to cancel proceedings because of an inability to serve a summons to the suspect.

“This is incomprehensible. We hoped that the trial would happen so we could put this behind us. We'll never forget but want to move on with our lives. But as it looks now, we're never going to be able to do so,” said Romario's father, Ibrahim Adan, to TV4 news website nyhetskanalen.se, shortly after hearing the court's decision.

Several hundred Romario supporters marched through the streets of Stockholm on Tuesday afternoon to protest what they saw as a miscarriage of justice.

Romario, a promising footballer and role model for youth in the predominantly immigrant neighbourhood of Husby north of Stockholm, died in October from stab wounds following a fight near the E4 motorway in nearby Kista.

During the district court trial, the 18-year-old even admitted to stabbing Romario and two of his friends, both of whom received life threatening injuries.

But the court acquitted the teen and two other suspects, aged 16 and 20, because it believed the 18-year-old's confession was fabricated to protect the actual perpetrators.

Prosecutors filed an appeal shortly after the verdict, but because the 18-year-old was acquitted, there were no grounds for restricting him from leaving Sweden.

While the court hopes to reschedule the hearing for next autumn, there is no guarantee that the suspect will be back in Sweden by then.

“My understanding is that the family wanted him to get out of Rinkeby and Sweden,” said attorney Åkermark to SvD, referring to the neighbourhood near Stockholm which is home to many Somali and other immigrants.

“He was talking about leaving a long time ago.”

Åkermark added that the chances were small of his client returning to Sweden for any appeal hearing planned for the autumn.

“As far as I know, there is no functioning rule of law [in Somalia], so I don't think it's possible to have him extradited. In addition, no one knows exactly where he is,” he told SvD.

The turn of events had fuelled further frustration among friends and supporters of Romario who have long been critical at the way police handled the investigation into his death.

“It's been managed sloppily from the start. There were 13 people at the crime scene – the police should have been able to get at least one of them convicted for the murder,” said friend and former teammate Haiman Alz to the Metro newspaper.

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