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20 Mar, 2008 22:53

Disabled Chechens accused of gun smuggling in Sweden

Three physically disabled Chechens have appeared in a Swedish court, suspected of smuggling automatic weapons into the country. Their car was stopped by customs officials on March 3 at the port of Trelleborg.

Ethnic Chechens, 29-year-old Aslambek Idrisov, 27-year-old Akhmed Shatayev and 27-year-old Azir Ali Magomadov appeared in court in a special session behind closed doors in the city of Malmo. Of the three men, one has only one hand, one has an arm missing and the other both hands missing.

Their arrival on March 3 at the small southern port town of Trelleborg aroused the suspicions of Customs officials. On searching a car allegedly belonging to the men, they found a cache of automatic weapons. It was then that the men were arrested.

They can be detained for two more weeks under Swedish law. They haven’t been formally charged, but they were arrested on suspicion of arms smuggling. The investigation is continuing. The prosecutors say they need extra time to find more evidence, and to determine the citizenship of the detained. The men were initially believed by Swedish authorities to be Russian citizens.

Prosecutors argued for more time to hold the suspects on three counts. Firstly, they are not Swedish nationals; secondly, officials believe they could flee the country if released; and the serious nature of the alleged crime they were arrested for.

According to defence lawyer Matt Johnsson, the three are being treated well in prison.

Arms smuggling carries a sentence of at least two years in prison in Sweden.

Meanwhile, five police officers, one civilian, and three suspected militants, have been killed in a shootout in Chechnya. At least six other people were wounded, including three civilians. The incident took place in the Urus-Martan district of the republic late on Wednesday.

During the operation, special forces came under fire from a group of up to fifteen suspected militants. Police are now hunting the attackers.