Norway prosecutes alleged synagogue shooters

3 men charged with shooting at an Oslo synagogue in 2006, in first trial under tougher anti-terrorism laws.

Oslo synagogue 224.88 (photo credit: Yngve A. Lohrbauer )
Oslo synagogue 224.88
(photo credit: Yngve A. Lohrbauer )
All three men deny the charges, and their defense attorneys have described the evidence against them as weak. Afan Bhatti, 30, and a second man were indicted on suspicion of either firing 13 shots at the main synagogue during the night of Sept. 17, 2006, or being an accomplice. No one was injured in the attack. Bhatti and a third suspect are also being tried on charges of plotting an attack on the U.S. or Israeli embassy in Oslo the same year. "Absolutely not guilty," said Bhatti, who has been held in jail since September 2006 on those charges. The prosecution has depicted Bhatti as the key suspect in both cases. The trial in Oslo city court is expected to last about 40 days, with some 80 witnesses, and is the first one since Norway strengthened its anti-terror laws because of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks in the United States. "There is nothing in evidence offered in this case ... that puts him in connection with any group, person, place or organization outside this kingdom that one could generally call terrorists of terror groups," Bhatti's defense attorney, John Christian Elden, said in court. Prosecutor Andreas Christiansen said evidence he will present includes drawings and plans for rocket launchers, which were found in mid-2006 and led the Norwegian police intelligence service to keep Bhatti under close surveillance. Christiansen gave no other details at the trial's opening. Andreas Bog Kristiansen, 28, was indicted with Bhatti on charges of plotting to use explosives or weapons to attack the U.S. or Israeli embassies, and conspiring to commit armed robbery. Ibrahim Oezbabacan, 30, was indicted, with Bhatti, for either firing or being an accomplice to 13 shots being fired at the Oslo synagogue. The charges of plotting embassy attacks - which never took place - was partly based on a police recording of Bhatti and Kristiansen talking about ways to attack the embassies. Earlier, defense attorneys said those charges were based on 'empty talk' and that the two had taken no action to plot or carry out an attack. In addition to the terror-related charges, Bhatti also is on trial in other cases, including the firing of 17 shots at the home of a failed Norwegian businessman in 2006. In that case, Bhatti pleaded guilty to threatening another person and illegal possession of firearms.