Details of plot emerge in terror trial

One defendant testifies that he tried to stop the plot and claims the suspects were only in Copenhagen because they wanted a Big Mac

The trial of the four men charged with terrorism and illegal weapons possession in connection with an attempted terrorist attack in 2010 continues in Glostrup Municipal Court.

In taped testimony obtained by the Swedish security police, SÄPO, one of the accused, Sahbi Zalouti, claimed he did everything he could to try to stop the planned attack on Jyllands-Posten's Copenhagen office.

“I tried to prevent them. I tried in every way,” said Zalouti. “In the end did not happen, but it was actually planned. Are you happy now?”

During questioning by SÄPO, Zalouti said that the attacks were planned after the paper published the controversial Muhammad cartoons in 2005. He said that Danes were deliberately provoking Muslims with the caricatures.

On the tape, Zalouti said that another defendant, Mounir Dhari, returned from Pakistan with orders to attack targets and “kill as many as possible” in Denmark.

When the group was arrested outside Copenhagen in December 2010, they were in possession of an assault rifle, ammunition, a silencer and plastic strips, which investigators initially believed were to be used in a New Year's Day attack.

However, it emerged during the trial last week that the likely target of their plot was the 2010 Årets Fund, a high-profile sports awards ceremony.

Among the attendees at the targeted event, held in the same building as the Copenhagen offices of Jyllands-Posten, was Crown Prince Frederik.

“There are things in the investigation that suggest that this event was the target,” the senior prosecutor, Henrik Plæhn, said in the Glostrup courtroom last week on Friday. “But it should be emphasised that the Crown Prince was not the target.”

Zalouti said that there was talk of the plan in the rented car the suspected terrorists drove from Herlev to Copenhagen on the night of 29 December 2010, but he claims he did not know that there were weapons in the vehicle.

Zalouti acknowledged in court that a machine gun and pistol found in the car had at one time been in his Stockholm apartment, but he said they belonged to co-defendant Mounir Dhahri, who was living with him at the time.

He also said that the 200 plastic strips in the trunk were to be used to “bind people”, although he could not explain who exactly was to be bound.  

Zalouti also admitted in court that he sent 10,000 Swedish kronor via Western Union to Mounir Dhahri in Pakistan, but he said the money was only to pay for Dhahri’s trip home.

When Dhahri traveled back to Sweden in October 2010, he went through Athens and then onto Brussels, where Zalouti picked him up by car. The prosecution claims the roundabout route was designed to cover their tracks.

The defendants are accused of driving through Copenhagen during the trip to examine Jyllands-Posten’s headquarters. Zalouti denied that was the reason the pair came to Denmark.

“I do not know not where Jyllands-Posten is,” he said. “We only came to Copenhagen because Mounir Dhahri wanted a Big Mac from McDonalds.”

Munir Awad and Omar Abdalla Aboelazm are accused along with Zalout and Dhahri  of planning the attacks.

Police believe that the four suspects had plotted to storm Jyllands-Posten's Copenhagen office with assault weapons, similar to a 2008 attack that killed 166 people in Mumbai.

In addition to the plot against the newspaper's office, which it shares with Politiken newspaper, the foursome had also planned other separate acts to terrorise the population at large.

Jyllands-Posten has been the target of Islamic-inspired terror ever since it published cartoons of the prophet Mohammed in 2005, drawing the ire of Muslims around the world.

The four men on trial face life sentences. They have all pleaded “not guilty” to the charges. A decision is expected in mid-June.