The Attunda District Court in Sollentuna north of Stockholm agreed with the prosecutor’s request to detain Sahbi Zalouti, a Swedish citizen of Tunisian decent, on probable cause for suspicions that he was preparing terror crimes.
“There is a risk that he may flee, that he will continue with criminal activities and that he could hamper the investigation,” prosecutor Tomas Lindstrand told the Expressen tabloid shortly before the hearing.
At the start of the proceedings, the lead judge ordered the hearing to be held behind closed doors and issued a gag order preventing participating attorneys from discussing the hearing publicly.
Zalouti, dressed in a green sweater, sat with his head in his left hand and refused to face the courtroom gallery, the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper reported.
Through his assigned defence attorney Elisabeth Audell, Zalouti denied having committed any crimes.
“He flatly denies the crimes. He disputes the ground for remand and the prosecutor’s request on restrictions,” Audell told the court.
Under Swedish law, which requires a court to review custody orders every two weeks, the prosecutor in the case Tomas Lindstrand has until 11am on January 13th to charge Zalouti or to request an extension.
Zalouti was arrested shortly before noon on Wednesday at his apartment in the Jakobsberg neighbourhood of Järfälla municipality, north of Stockholm.
Speaking with DN in Stockholm, acquaintances of Zalouti defended the 37-year-old, arguing that he had been mistakenly portrayed as an accomplice to terror crimes.
“I’ve known him for a long time and I know the accusations against him are false,” the friend told the newspaper.
Earlier on Thursday, three other suspects, including two Swedish nationals, were remanded in custody for four weeks by a Danish court following their arrest in a Copenhagen suburb on Wednesday.
According to Expressen, the three suspects include Munir Awad,a 29-year-old Swede born in Lebanon, 30-year-old Swede Omar Abdalla Aboelazm, and 44-year-old Tunisian national Mounir Dhahri.
All four men were in a joint Swedish-Danish investigation for hatching what Danish officials called a plan to “kill as many people as possible” in an imminent assault on the Copenhagen offices of the Jyllands-Posten daily.
In 2005, Jyllands-Posten published a dozen cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that triggered violent and sometimes deadly protests around the world.
On Wednesday Jakob Scharf, the head of Danish intelligence agency PET, told reporters “the plan was to try to gain access to the location of Jyllands-Posten in Copenhagen and to try to carry out a Mumbai-style attack.”
The 2008 attacks in Mumbai saw 10 heavily armed gunmen storm three luxury hotels, the city’s main railway station, a popular tourist restaurant and a Jewish centre and left 160 people dead.
PET spokeswoman Trine Marie Ilsøe said a fifth man detained Wednesday — a 26-year-old Iraqi asylum seeker arrested in his apartment in the Copenhagen suburb Greve — would be released.
“He is still suspected of trying to conduct terrorism,” she told AFP, not specifying why he had not been sent before a judge.
Danish media however reported the suspicions against the man, identified only by his initials A.S., were not as serious as against his suspected accomplices.
His 24-year-old brother Farooq Muhammad Salman told AFP that A.S. “didn’t think they (the four men remanded in custody) were planning to do terror.”
He “was completely relaxed, because inside he knew he doesn’t have anything to do with terror, so he wasn’t afraid of being charged with terror,” Salman said.
The brother told public broadcaster DR A.S had lost the sight in one eye and hearing in one ear due to cancer and was still “sick and does not go out much,” except to the mosque for Friday prayers since he had become deeply religious.
He had, according to his brother, met two of the other suspects when he traveled to Stockholm to propose to a woman there.
A.S. reportedly arranged for his three suspected accomplices to stay at the apartment of a friend who was travelling abroad.