Huvudmannen, imamen, Uzbekistan, Strömsund
Surveillance footage of the suspect. Photo: Police

Man on trial for attempted murder of Uzbek imam in Sweden

The trial began Monday for the 37-year-old man suspected of having shot an Uzbek imam in the head in the Swedish city of Strömsund three years ago.

The imam, Obid Nazarov, survived the three shots to the head but spent over two years in a coma. Today he lives at a secret location. Nazarov is a leading critic of the Uzbek dictator Islam Karimov, and has been living in Sweden as a refugee since 2006.

The Uzbek government has accused Nazarov of organising Islamic militants and chief prosecutor Krister Petersson believes that this is the reason he was shot.

"We have looked for other motives such as money, drugs or altercations, but the only feasible explanation is that he was shot because of his ties to Uzbekistan," Petersson tells Swedish Television News.

Petersson argues that Uzbek authorities deemed him to be a threat and that someone ordered an attack on him.

"The way the murder attempt was carried out says it all, it was orchestrated by the Uzbek government," Petersson says.

The 37-year-old suspect has been in custody since this summer. He was arrested in Moscow in January and later handed over to Swedish authorities. Police have matched the man's DNA with DNA found on a backpack containing the murder weapon and two empty cartridges. They have not, however, been able to link the man with the murder weapon.

The man holds an Uzbek passport, but Petersson says that they haven't been able to get much more information about him because the Uzbek authorities have refused to help with the investigation.

The suspect admits to having been in the city of Strömsund at the time of the murder, but denies all allegations. He will be heard in court Tuesday at the second day of the trial. The trial is expected to go on all week.

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