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Accused in Sweden artist murder plot freed

Three men accused of plotting the murder of a Swedish artist who depicted the Prophet Mohammed as a dog will be released from custody pending their verdict, a court ruled Wednesday.

"The District Court has lifted the custody decision regarding Abdi Aziz Mahamud, Salar Sami Mahmood and Abdi Weli Mahmud," the court in the southwestern city of Gothenburg said in a statement after their four-day trial concluded Wednesday afternoon.

The three, who were accused of having planned to kill controversial artist Lars Vilks at a Gothenburg art fair in September, will receive their verdict on January 20, the court added.

"There is no longer reason to hold them in custody," head judge Henrik Winman told the Expressen daily, adding that the court would provide its reasoning when it presents its verdict.

Prosecutor Agnetha Hilding Qvarnstroem demanded in her closing remarks Wednesday that they each receive at least three years prison, while the men's defence attorneys insisted there was little evidence against their clients and demanded they be set free.

Vilks has faced numerous death threats and was the target of another suspected assassination plot since his drawing of the Prophet Mohammed as a dog was first published by a Swedish regional newspaper in 2007, illustrating an editorial on the importance of freedom of expression.

The three men released Wednesday were arrested along with a fourth man, no longer considered a suspect, by an elite counter-terrorism unit in Gothenburg.

The unit had evacuated hundreds of people from a building hosting the September art fair "after concluding that there was a threat that could endanger lives or health or cause serious damage".

Vilks had initially said on his blog that he would attend the art fair although he did not in the end.

The three suspects -- one Somali citizen and two Swedes in their mid-20s -- were all carrying knives when they were arrested and were, according to the prosecution, planning to stab Vilks to death.

Press reports have suggested that the trio had ties to the Somali Islamist movement Shebab, but Qvarnstroem told AFP earlier this month that she had no information to support such claims.

nl/fz

Last Updated (Friday, 30 December 2011 11:46)

 

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