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Couple freed of aiding Uzbek imam shooter

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10:43 CEST+02:00
The Uzbek couple charged with aiding the attempted murder of an imam from northern Sweden, in what prosecutors believe may be a political assassination attempt, was freed on Thursday after the court found the evidence against them lacking.

The victim, Obydkhon Sobitkhony Nazarov, was shot in the head outside his Strömsund home on February 22nd.

The suspected shooter has an Uzbek passport and a Russian driver's licence, and left the country two days after the attempted murder. An international warrant has been issued for his arrest.

The couple were believed to have aided the shooter extensively, including letting him stay repeatedly in their Malmö home. According to the prosecution, they also helped the shooter rent a car and find a place to stay in Strömsund.

While the shooter was up north, he was in frequent contact with the couple, an exchange which ended abruptly as soon as he left the country.

The couple then wiped their computers and mobile phones clean in an attempt to cover their tracks, argued the prosecution.

But both the man and the woman have argued from the very beginning that they had nothing to do with the attack, saying that they were tricked into providing information about the imam.

The court found that the explanations provided by the couple are credible and that the prosecutor has failed to show their intent to aid a crime. The demand that they be deported was also denied by the court.

The man and woman, both 31 years of age, did not however provide a credible account of their involvement in the trip to Strömsund, according to the court, but the evidence presented by the prosecution did not suffice to warrant a guilty verdict.

The court also claimed that the investigation was lacking. The prosecutor failed to show that the prime suspect, whom the couple stood accused of aiding, was the sole perpetrator of the crime, according to the court.

Neither was it possible to determine ”beyond reasonable doubt” that the gun found on site in a rucksack was used in the attack, according to the verdict.

The court wrote that there was no reason to question that the attack against the imam, a well-known Uzbek regime critic, was carried out with a political motive or that the assassination attempt “was planned and carried out by an organization outside of Sweden”.

A well-known religious leader and political dissident Nazarov, who fled his central Asian homeland and came to Sweden 2006, is not viewed positively by the Uzbek regime, which is known to see deeply religious regime critics as terrorists.

Nazarov came to Sweden along with scores of other political refugees after a 2005 crackdown by Uzbek government troops in Andijan in which hundreds of protesters were killed, although the exact number of casualties remains in dispute.

Today he is internationally wanted by Uzbekistan. After the assassination attempt Nazarov received life-threatening injuries. His has still not regained consciousness.

TT/The Local/rm

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