Defendants take stand in left-wing terror trial
Molotov cocktails, clubs, flares, pepper spray, copies of the Anarchist’s Cookbook and a fertiliser bomb manual have all been presented in evidence in a trial against five men charged with terrorism that started this week.
Four of the men were caught in April 2011 attempting to set fire to a suburban Copenhagen police academy, and one was later apprehended by the police. They are all now charged under anti-terrorism legislation that carries a maximum penalty of life prison for carrying out attacks designed to “grossly intimidate the population”.
The case is without precedent, as anti-terrorism legislation, first passed by parliament in 2002, has only been used to prosecute Islamic extremists such as the men that plotted a ‘Mumbai-style’ attack on the offices of Jyllands-Posten newspaper in retribution for printing the Mohammed cartoons
The men’s backgrounds have also been the focus of attention as they have all been linked to far-left activist groups in Copenhagen and, according to media reports, come from middle-class professional households.
Thorkild Høyer, a lawyer for one of the men, expected the trial to focus on whether the arson campaign the men carried out between 2010 and 2011 was politically motivated.
“There are two main questions. The first is whether the accused planned these acts together. And the second question is whether it is terrorism,” Høyer told TV2 News. “You can question whether it is at all politically motivated and even if it was it won’t necessarily mean it was terrorism.”
The men, aged 21 to 24, are accused of carrying out arson attacks against a range of targets including the Greek Embassy, fur manufacturers, Nestlé, the police and the domestic intelligence agency PET.
They also stand accused of planning attacks against the Justice Ministry, the house of parliament, AP Moller Maersk and the Immigration Ministry.
They were apprehended after an anonymous tip-off in March 2012 lead police to start surveillance of a building in the Christiania commune that the men were using as a clubhouse.
Police used intelligence gathered from this surveillance to catch four of the men red-handed as they attempted to set fire to the police academy.
Following their arrest, the police linked the men to a string of other attempted and successful attacks including one against the same police academy in 2010 that resulted in two million kroner in damages.
Cannabis, Molotov cocktails and the Anarchist’s Cookbook
The first trial day on Tuesday was spent questioning the five accused men and presenting the evidence against them.
The first man, identified only as PJ, admitted to making the 21 Molotov cocktails that were discovered in a freezer in their clubhouse. He said that the 145 flares that were also found in the building were bought in Christiania.
Two of the other men, TMH and AC, admitted helping make the Molotov cocktails. But both said there was no particular reason for making them and that they smoked a lot of cannabis while hanging out at Christiania and that had inhibited their ability to remember details of anything they had done.
PJ, TMH and AC all plead guilty to the arson attempt at the police academy. The fourth person arrested at the scene, DHP, refused to be questioned, however. A raid at his room uncovered masks, metal and wooden clubs as well as pepper spray.
The fifth defendant, FP, was arrested after the first four and also refused to be questioned. A police raid at the flat FP shared with his girlfriend uncovered spray-paint, bolt cutters, copies of the magazine ‘Resistance Anarchist Paper’ and the book ‘The Anarchist’s Cookbook’, which contains instructions for rudimentary terrorist equipment.
On his computer it was found that he had searched "how to make home-made white-trash napalm" and "homemade napalm". In his college flat in Odense, police found a computer with a file called ‘fertilizing fun’ that listed recipes for how to make bombs using high-nitrogen fertiliser.
During the questioning the prosecution established that the three defendants had links to far-left groups in Copenhagen that are centred around the Ungdomshuset culture centre. They also established that PJ and TMH had previously been arrested by police during demonstrations linked to climate and pro-asylum activism.
FP refused to be questioned and instead read a statement in which, according to Berlingske newspaper’s court reporter, he said that it was unacceptable that he had been held on remand for almost 18 months.
“The system has been against me from the start and I have helpless about participating,” he said. “I’m tired and I’ve become a little bitter. I don’t want to participate and be used as a scapegoat.”
Locked up but not convicted
All five were kept remanded for at least a year while PJ and FP have remained in custody since they were arrested in April and May 2011, respectively.
These long remands are not unusual in Denmark according to Eva Smith, professor of law at the University of Copenhagen, though she argues that they are problematic.
“The police argue to judges that unless they are locked up they will destroy evidence and make it difficult to prove the case,” Smith said, adding that judges had become used to allowing suspects to be remanded for long periods of time.
“It is a big problem with the legal system that people are held for such a long time,” Smith said. “It’s a puzzle that we have these long periods of custody because other countries seem to be able to investigate and prepare for trial without holding people on remand for so long. It just seems to be the way things are done.”
Smith added that the men could be entitled to large sums in compensation if they are acquitted or sentenced to terms that are significantly shorter than the amount of time they were held on remand .