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GOTHENBURG MURDER PLOT

TERRORISM

Swedish court bans niqab-wearing women

Three women wearing head scarves completely shielding their faces were denied entry to a Gothenburg courtroom on Friday during the remand hearing of one of the suspects in the Röda Sten murder plot case.

Swedish court bans niqab-wearing women
A picture of two of the women taken at a previous remand hearing

”I am responsible for order in this court room and I feel I can’t achieve that if I am unable to see the faces of the people present,” said district court judge Stefan Wikmark to Swedish TV4.

The three women were stopped as they were trying to enter the courtroom for the remand hearing 26-year-old Abdi Aziz Mahamud who is under suspicion for plotting the murder of Swedish artist Lars Vilks at an art exhibition in Gothenburg in September.

All three women were wearing niqabs covering them from head to toe.

One of the guards at the Gothenburg District Court prevented them from stepping into the court room, referring to the ban on face coverings, according to TV4’s affiliate in Gothenburg.

The decision to refuse the women from entering the court room while wearing their traditional garb was taken by Wikmark during the remand negotiations.

Aziz Mahamud, as well as Salar Sami Mahamood, 23, and 25-year-old Abdi Weli Mohamud have been held since a raid carried out in September by officers from Swedish security service Säpo.

After receiving intelligence indicating that a terrorist attck would be carried out during an exhibition at Röda Sten, officers stormed and evacuated the gallery during the opening of an art exhibition.

Four men were arrested on the suspicion of preparing terrrorist activities following the raid.

However, one of the suspects, 24-year-old Mohamed Adel Kulan, was later released due to lack of evidence and the suspicions against the other men were subsequently downgraded from preparing terror crimes to preparing to commit murder.

Controversial artist Vilks has been under threat since his drawings of the prophet Muhammad, published in a Swedish newspaper, caused a wave of condemnation from Muslims worldwide.

At Friday’s hearing the court ruled that Aziz Mahamud should remain in custody, pending trial.

In separate hearings, court also ruled that the other two suspects should remain in remand and instructed prosecutors to file formal charges against the men by November 9th.

TERRORISM

US vice president lays wreaths at site of 2015 Paris terror attacks

US Vice President Kamala Harris and French Prime Minister Jean Castex laid wreaths at a Paris cafe and France's national football stadium Saturday six years since deadly terror attacks that left 130 people dead.

US vice president lays wreaths at site of 2015 Paris terror attacks
US Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff lay flowers after ceremonies at Le Carillon bar and Le Petit Cambodge restaurant, at which 130 people were killed during the 2015 Paris terror attacks. Photo: Sarahbeth Maney/POOL/AFP

The attacks by three separate teams of Islamic State group jihadists on the night of November 13, 2015 were the worst in France since World War II.

Gunmen mowed down 129 people in front of cafes and at a concert hall in the capital, while a bus driver was killed after suicide bombers blew themselves up at the gates of the stadium in its suburbs.

Harris, wrapping up a four-day trip to France, placed a bouquet of white flowers in front of a plaque honouring the victims outside a Paris cafe.

Castex attended a minute of silence at the Stade de France football stadium, along with Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, before laying wreaths at the sites of the other attacks inside Paris.

In front of the Bataclan concert hall, survivors and relatives of the victims listened to someone read out the names of each of the 90 people killed during a concert there six years ago.

Public commemorations of the tragedy were called off last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Last year we weren’t allowed to come and we all found it really tough,” said Bruno Poncet, who made it out alive of the Bataclan.

But he said the start of a trial over the attacks in September meant that those attending the commemoration this year felt more united.

‘Overcome it all’

“We’ve really bonded thanks to the trial,” he said. “During previous commemorations, we’d spot each other from afar without really daring to speak to each other. We were really shy. But standing up in court has really changed everything.”

The marathon trial, the biggest in France’s modern legal history, is expected to last until May 2022.

Twenty defendants are facing sentences of up to life in prison, including the sole attacker who was not gunned down by police, Salah Abdeslam, a French-Moroccan national who was captured in Brussels. Six of the defendants are being tried in absentia.

Poncet said he felt it was crucial that he attend the hearings. “I can’t possibly not. It’s our lives that are being discussed in that room, and it’s important to come to support the others and to try to overcome it all.”

Survivors have taken to the witness stand to recount the horror of the attacks, but also to describe life afterwards.

Several said they had been struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, grappling with survivor’s guilt, or even feeling alienated from the rest of society.

Saturday’s commemorations are to wrap up with a minute of silence at the Stade de France in the evening before the kick-off for a game between France and Kazakhstan.

It was during a football match between France and Germany that three suicide bombers blew themselves up in 2015.

Then-French president Francois Hollande was one of the 80,000 people in the crowd, before he was discreetly whisked away to avoid triggering mass panic.

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