Swedish court hands life sentence to Syrian asylum seeker

16 February 2017 | 15:18

Source: Associated Press

  • Source: Associated Press
  • Last update: 16 February 2017 | 15:18

This file photo taken on January 26, 2017 shows Swedish Television reporter Fredrik Onnevall (C) taking his seat in the District Court in Malmo, Sweden, during the first day of trial. (AFP Photo/TT News Agency/Emil Langvad)

STOCKHOLM: A Swedish court on Thursday sentenced a Syrian man to life imprisonment for participation in the 2012 mass execution of seven government troops in Syria.

The Stockholm District Court ruled that 46-year-old refugee Haisam Omar Sakhanh joined the armed group Suleiman Company in early May 2012, and shot a person dead with an assault rifle.

Judge Tomas Zander said the victim, who was not identified, was shot dead along with six others "under particularly cruel circumstances."

Sakhanh had confessed to the shooting but said he should not be prosecuted because the death sentences had been made by a legitimate court, something the Swedish court rejected. It also rejected his defense that he had been following orders.

The court said Sakanh had been active in Italy in 2011 and 2012 where he protested against the Syrian government. Italian police helped investigators in Sweden to identify him via fingerprints and photos of him illegally entering the Syrian Embassy in Rome during a protest, according to the court ruling obtained by The Associated Press.

After his stint in Italy, Sakhanh returned to Syria before heading north to Sweden where he sought asylum in Sweden in 2013. He failed to inform authorities about the executions and was given refugee status and permanent residence permit in early 2016. He has been held in pre-trial custody since March.

In a statement, the court said Sakhanh's crime "is so high that the punishment has been ruled to be life imprisonment."

In Sweden, life imprisonment is normally 10 years. The court said Sakhanh should then be expelled from the country and banned from returning.

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