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Monday, 2 September, 2002, 18:00 GMT 19:00 UK
Sweden remands hijack suspect
Kerim Chatty
Mr Chatty tried to board a plane with a gun in his bag
A man suspected of planning to hijack a flight from Sweden to Britain is to be held in custody while prosecutors consider charges, a Swedish court has ruled.


We will be trying to clarify why exactly he brought the gun to the airport

Prosecutor Thomas Haeggstroem
Kerim Sadok Chatty, 29, was remanded in custody on suspicion of planning to seize control of an aircraft, a Ryanair jet, and possession of an illegal firearm by the court in Vasteras, outside Stockholm.

A judge agreed with the prosecution that Mr Chatty, who tried to take a gun on board a Ryanair flight last Thursday, should be held in custody for the next two weeks while the investigation continued.

Prosecutors will then decide whether to file charges.

"We will be trying to clarify why exactly he brought the gun to the airport," Prosecutor Thomas Haeggstroem told a news conference after the hearing.

'Forgotten gun'

Mr Chatty's lawyer, Nils Uggla, has said his client was responsible for the gun found in his luggage which led to his arrest at Vasteras airport, but said there was no intention to use it to hijack the Ryanair flight.

Ryanair passenger
Fellow passengers were questioned, then released

He also said that Mr Chatty was "very much against violence" and was being unfairly suspected of terrorism because of his Muslim faith and the timing of his arrest.

Mr Chatty, a Swedish citizen of Tunisian descent appeared in court in a grey t-shirt, shorts and sandals and listened intently to the prosecution charges.

He spoke only once, to confirm his presence in the court, before letting his lawyer take charge of his defence.

Swedish police said earlier in the day that they had enough evidence to accuse Mr Chatty of the "serious crime" of attempted hijacking in addition to the weapons charge under which he had been held.

The hijacking charge - which Swedish police said was unprecedented in their country - carries a maximum life sentence.

Terrorist checks

Any possible motive for Mr Chatty remains unclear, but prosecutors are checking if he has links to any terrorist organisations.

Concern has been raised by a number of factors:

  • The approach of the anniversary of the 11 September attacks on New York and Washington that used hijacked planes

  • The revelation that Mr Chatty took flying lessons in the US as did some of the 11 September hijackers

  • The claim by Mr Chatty that he wanted to attend a British conference of Salafi followers of Islam, a radical school said to be favoured by Osama Bin Laden though it rejects violence

  • Disputed reports from intelligence sources that Mr Chatty wanted to attack a US embassy in Europe

Swedish police by the evacuated Ryanair plane
The discovery of Mr Chatty's gun prompted a massive security operation
Mr Chatty's lawyer said a series of coincidences had muddied the facts.

"He is Muslim, he is flying and he has a gun and it's close to 11 September," Mr Uggla said on Saturday.

"That makes people draw quick conclusions."

A British Muslim cleric echoed the view, telling the BBC that Islamophobia had informed much of the media coverage about Mr Chatty.

Mr Chatty has previous convictions for weapons offences and violence but a friend of his told the BBC he believed Mr Chatty had simply forgotten the gun was in his bag as he rushed to catch the Stansted-bound flight.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Stephen Sackur reports from Sweden
"The suspect's lawyer says he had a gun but he is not a hijacker"
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