Through his lawyer, Peter Mangs, 40, denied 19 of 20 charges against him but pleaded guilty to vandalism for shooting two signs in the southern Swedish city.
Mangs stands accused of three counts of murder and 12 counts of attempted murder in a string of shootings many observers insist were racially motivated, something his defence lawyer Douglas Norking denied.
“Peter Mangs is not a racist. He doesn’t have anything against other cultures,” the lawyer told the court on Monday afternoon, according tothe Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper.
“There is no motive. He doesn’t have a relationship with any of the plaintiffs. He hasn’t met them and he doesn’t have anything against them.”
Defence attorneys also pointed out that there is no DNA or fingerprint evidence supporting prosecutors’ case against Mangs.
“Peter Mangs hasn’t fired any of the gunshots which hit any of the plaintiffs,” said Norking, adding that investigators lack evidence tying Mangs to the crime scenes.
Mangs was arrested in November 2010 following a massive police manhunt amid the string of attacks on immigrants in Sweden’s third largest city of Malmö.
Malmö prosecutors have charged him with killing two men of foreign origin, aged 66 and 23, in 2003, and a 20-year-old Swedish woman, Trez West Persson, who was sitting in a car with an immigrant man with a criminal record in 2009.
He also faces 12 attempted murder charges for firing shots with a Glock 19 pistol on homes, businesses and cars and out in the open, seriously injuring a number of people and coming close to killing many others.
“His actions have put lives in danger,” prosecutor Solveig Wollstad said as she described each case, including shots fired at a Malmö mosque.
Mangs, who is reportedly unemployed with a history of psychiatric troubles, is also suspected of plotting another murder, repeatedly carrying his gun to the home of a man he allegedly intended to kill.
Other charges against him included making illegal threats, vandalism and aggravated judicial tampering, all in 2009 and 2010.
Wollstad insisted last week that the prosecution had a very strong case, referring to a large number of witness accounts, as well as technical and digital evidence listed in the 60-page charge sheet.
The exact motive remained unclear, Wollstad said last week, adding: “There is a certain level of xenophobia but also other things, like aggression towards people who have previously been found guilty of crime.”
During her review of the charge sheet earlier on Monday, Wollstad explained that empty shell casings that could be tied to Mangs’s gun had been found near the scenes of some of the shootings.
According to prosecutors, Mangs told a friend that he had shot West Persson.
When Mangs was arrested, police found a gun with a silencer, a bullet-proof vest as well as a wig and a mask.
Mangs’ trial, which is set to last until mid-July, opened as the trial of mass killer Anders Behring Breivik continued in neighbouring Norway.
Breivik, who has said his massacre of 77 people was “cruel but necessary” to fight multiculturalism and a “Muslim invasion” of Europe, praised Mangs during the first week of his own trial, and many commentators have drawn parallels between the two cases.
The Malmö shooting spree also bore a chilling similarity to the case of a gunman who targeted immigrants in Stockholm in the early 1990s, dubbed “Laserman”.
The Stockholm “Laserman”, John Ausonius, shot 11 people of immigrant origin, killing one, between August 1991 and January 1992.
Ausonius, who got his nickname by initially using a rifle equipped with a laser, was jailed for life in 1994.