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CRIME

Police in Sweden seek motive behind Malmö school attack

Police in Sweden were on Tuesday attempting to determine why an 18-year-old student allegedly killed two teachers at a high school a day earlier in an attack that has shaken the country.

Pupils hug outside Malmö Latin on Tuesday
Pupils hug outside Malmö Latin on Tuesday. Photo. Johan Nilsson/TT

The two victims, both women in their 50s, were teachers at Malmo Latin, a large high school in Sweden’s third-biggest city, police said at a press conference on Tuesday.

Media reports said the suspect, whose name has not been disclosed, was armed with a knife and an axe, though police have not confirmed that information.

Police chief Petra Stenkula said police had seized “several weapons that are not firearms” at the scene.

Investigators were now trying to determine whether the suspect specifically targetted his victims or chose them at random, and whether he had planned to attack more people.

“We don’t know yet if he had any connection to these employees”, Stenkula told reporters.

The student “has no criminal record”, she said, adding that police were looking into his background and movements prior to the attack. Investigators were on Tuesday searching the suspect’s home in the nearby town of Trelleborg, she added.

Police were alerted to the attack at 5:12 pm and a first patrol was able to enter the school minutes later. About 50 students and teachers were inside at the time, and news footage showed heavily equipped and armed police inspecting the interior of the building.

READ ALSO: Two female teachers stabbed to death by pupil at Malmö school

Recent attacks

The suspect was arrested on the third floor just 10 minutes after the first alert, putting up no resistance, Stenkula said. His two victims were lying on the floor nearby, she added. The teachers were rushed to hospital for treatment but their deaths were announced later in the evening.

According to daily Aftonbladet, the alleged attacker called emergency services to say where he was and that he had laid down his weapons, and confessed to the killings.

READ ALSO: What we know about the school stabbing in Malmö

Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson on Tuesday expressed her “sadness” and “consternation” over the attack.

At the high school, which was closed on Tuesday, a support group has been set up for teachers and students, local authorities said.

“Everyone is deeply shocked. Devastated,” a teacher at the school who didn’t want to be identified told AFP on Tuesday.

“It’s an awful crime, it’s impossible to take it all in”, she said, standing outside the school where a group of about 20 students stood hugging and crying, some with flowers to lay down on the ground.

School attacks are relatively rare in Sweden, which has in recent years grown more accustomed to shootings and bombings in underworld settlings of scores that kill dozens of people each year.

But several serious incidents have taken place at schools in southern Sweden in recent months.

In January, a 16-year-old was arrested after wounding another student and a teacher with a knife at a school in the small town of Kristianstad.

That incident was linked to a similar knife attack in August 2021 in the town of Eslov, about 50 kilometres (30 miles) away, when a student attacked a 45-year-old school employee.

No link has been established between those two events and the Malmo attack.

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SWEDEN AND IRAN

Swedish court to give verdict in Iranian war crimes trial in July

A landmark trial against a former Iranian prison official accused of war crimes during a 1988 purge of dissidents wrapped up in Sweden on Wednesday, with a verdict due in July.

Swedish court to give verdict in Iranian war crimes trial in July

The proceedings marked the first time an Iranian official has gone on trial for the purge.

Hamid Noury, 61, faces charges including crimes against humanity and war crimes for his role in the killing of as many as 5,000 prisoners across Iran, allegedly ordered by supreme leader Ayatollah Khomeini.

The killings were revenge for attacks carried out by the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (MEK), an exiled opposition group, at the end of the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-88.

Last week, prosecutors called for a life sentence for Noury, who has been on trial in Stockholm district court since August 2021.

“It’s ironic, because I was witness to many of my friends being sentenced to death in one-minute trials in Iran. How different it is here”, Ramadan Fathi, a former prisoner who testified against Noury, told AFP.

On Wednesday, the final day of the trial, the judge set the date for the verdict on July 14.

“I hope these hands will be cleared … with the help of God,” Noury told the court, his palms raised to the sky and holding a Koran. “Friends, I love you, I’m not angry at you”, he told those present in the courtroom, his remarks in Farsi translated into Swedish by a court-appointed interpreter.

The defence had contested Sweden’s principle of universal jurisdiction — which allows it to try the case regardless of where the offences took place — and called into question the plaintiffs’ testimony.

“There is a lot of uncertainty about the way in which the name Hamid Noury arose in the testimonies”, Daniel Marcus, one of Noury’s two lawyers, told the court, calling the evidence “insufficient”.

‘Small, small holes’

According to the prosecution and survivors who testified against him, Noury was assistant to the deputy prosecutor of Gohardasht prison near Tehran at the time of the events.

He allegedly handed down death sentences, brought prisoners to the execution chamber and helped prosecutors gather prisoners’ names. Noury has argued that he was on leave during the period in question, and said he worked in another prison, not the Gohardasht one.

Noury was arrested at a Stockholm airport in November 2019 after Iranian dissidents in Sweden filed police complaints against him.

Throughout the nine-month trial, which briefly relocated to Albania to hear some testimony at the end of 2021, MEK supporters protested loudly outside the Stockholm courthouse.

A lawyer for the plaintiffs, Kenneth Lewis, said the evidence in the case was “overwhelming”. The defence “tried to find small, small holes, but in my opinion, they weren’t very comfortable” in their argument.

A lawyer representing the MEK expressed however concern that Noury — who is currently held in custody pending the verdict — would flee Sweden if acquitted, before an appeal could be lodged.

Ramadan Fathi, the former prisoner, said meanwhile he was “very happy to see with my own eyes” someone from the regime facing justice.

“Now that we’ve reached the end of this trial, I hope a day comes very soon when the entire leaders of this regime, perpetrators of this massacre, are brought to justice here or elsewhere.”

The trial has rendered Stockholm’s already chilly relations with Tehran even frostier.

Iran summoned the Swedish ambassador last week, the same day the prosecutor in Stockholm called for a life sentence against Noury. The Swedish foreign ministry has meanwhile advised its nationals against non-essential travel to Iran.

According to the Iranian news agency Isna, Iran plans to execute Swedish-Iranian academic Ahmadreza Djalali, who was sentenced to death in 2017 for spying for Israel, before May 21.

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