Saturday, May 25, 2024

Smiling, Bhatti gave Matapour a hug – going right into a clinch with the prosecution


Arfan Bhatti, accused of terrorism, refused to answer the prosecution’s questions – apart from those concerning rights violations against himself, he testified in the Matapour case on Tuesday. Drawing: Ane Hem / NTB

Of NTB | 07.05.2024 12:24:00

War and conflicts: On his way into the courtroom, Arfan Bhatti (46) greeted the accused Zaniar Matapour (44) with a smile and gave him a hug before he was taken to the witness box in room 250. Bhatti was wearing sweatpants, a hoodie, a green cap and had a relatively short-cut full beard . Only four days had passed since he was hastily taken out of a Pakistani prison and transported to Norway by the emergency squad of the Norwegian police.

On Tuesday morning, he was the last item on the prosecution’s evidence in the terror case. Bhatti was the most central contributor in the planning, organization and instigation of the mass shooting in Oslo on the night of 25 June 2022, the prosecutor believes.

– A good friend, answered Bhatti when district court judge Eirik Aass asked if he had any relationship with the defendant and, if so, which relationship.

It has emerged through the evidence that the two maintained close and personal contact before the Oslo shooting – both about family and everyday matters, but also about Islam and Islamism. In an interview that was read out to the court on Tuesday, Bhatti says that his friend has a heart of gold.

There was great excitement about what – if anything – the high-profile Islamist would say when he was presented as a witness in the terror case on Tuesday morning. He has made it clear to the Norwegian authorities that he requires full access to all information the authorities have on him, before he is willing to allow himself to be questioned.

Elden is busy on Tuesday with a case about quarantine hotels during the corona pandemic in the Supreme Court.

Zadig confirms that Bhatti is demanding access to all the information the Norwegian authorities – be it political authorities, such as the police, the PST and the Norwegian Intelligence Service – have collected about him for a number of years before he is willing to go in for questioning. Bhatti claims he has been surveilled, wiretapped and subjected to a series of covert investigative measures since 2018 and claimed violations of “all universal rights” when he appeared in court.

Allegations of rights violations related to the legal process and the extradition from Pakistan are dismissed as groundless by state attorney Sturla Henriksbø. He admitted when the court was adjourned that Bhatti’s testimony is unlikely to be particularly important for the case against Matapour.

– I am interested in what the ministries, political Norway, have done in this matter. What has been done of illegal agreements at various stages and what has happened. I am interested in what PST, the E-service, has done apart from the criminal case here. I will look at whether they show a pattern of illegality being committed, Bhatti said in an occasionally confrontational tone to the prosecution.

– I have not contributed in any way to the actions Zaniar is accused of. I know as little about it as anyone else, Bhatti said in court.

– It is tragic for them, but I am so far from that case and that action that I have no further comments beyond that, Bhatti said when asked by assistant attorney Christian Lundin if he had anything he wanted to say to those affected by the shooting and those left behind.

– I know neither people nor what happened that day or afterwards, beyond what I have come to know later. I was quite isolated there (in Pakistan, editor’s note). It is tragic for those who have been affected, Bhatti said.

Two men were killed and nine others shot and wounded in the short time since Zaniar Matapour pulled out two guns and began firing until he was laid to the ground by civilians. The prosecution believes the shooting was a terrorist attack against gays and the queer community who were out on the town celebrating pride on the night of 25 June 2022.

– If there is an indictment and a trial, then that is where I will give my explanation. A lot has happened in that case, which the public and the court of law here may not know. There is a reason why I explain myself the way I do, Bhatti said before being led out of the courtroom.

* There was extensive and apparently close and personal contact between Bhatti and Matapour. Bhatti’s contact info was found on several of Matapour’s devices. They sent each other messages on encrypted services and participated in an encrypted chat group, where extreme Islamism was among other topics.

* The prosecutor and the Norwegian Intelligence Service link him to the planning of the mass shooting through contact with the E-service’s secret agent and through a woman who also chatted with the agent who pretended to be two different IS representatives.

* According to the prosecutor, it was Bhatti who sent the audio file with Matapour’s oath of allegiance to IS after the attack with the intention of getting the extremist group to take responsibility for the shooting.

* Bhatti and Matapour were stopped by the police when they drove together after the car of Sian leader Lars Thorsen in spring 2022.

* Bhatti posted a photo on Facebook of a burning pride flag with a text that is interpreted as calling for the murder of gays, just days before the attack in Oslo.

– He respects that the processes must take their course here in Norway. But he has also notified that he has no interest in explaining himself in this case, which is his right as the accused. It should come as no surprise, says lawyer Inger Zadig, who represented Bhatti on behalf of the defender, lawyer John Christian Elden, to NTB.

The 46-year-old accused of terrorism was transported back to Norway on Friday after being detained in Pakistan for just over a year.

In Matapour’s case, there is some evidence of what the prosecutor believes is Bhatti’s complicity in the mass shooting. From what NTB understands, the prosecution will present a significantly more comprehensive and complete picture of evidence against him in a possible criminal case.


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