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Swedish Authorities Continue to Question Karem Chatty

Aired September 1, 2002 - 07:02   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


RENAY SAN MIGUEL, CNN ANCHOR: Let's get more on our top story. Swedish authorities continue to question a man arrested with a loaded gun in his carry-on luggage at a Swedish airport. New details are surfacing that have some chilling similarities to events surrounding September 11.
CNN'S Diana Muriel joins us on the phone from the central Sweden with the latest -- Diane.

DIANA MIGUEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Renay, the man was arrested on Thursday as he was attempting to board a Orion Air. That's a discount airline flight from Vasteras, which is about 100 kilometers west of Stockholm, the Swedish capital, bound for London's Stanstead Airport. It's understood he was carrying a loaded pistol in his hand luggage, contained in a bag of toiletries.

The man whose been named by Swedish media as Karem Chatty, a 29- year old Swede of Tunisian parentage, was traveling with a party of around 20 on their way to attend an Islamic conference in Birmingham, northwest of London. Swedish police have until Monday mid-day local time, to charge the suspects. It's believed they're likely to keep him on a holding charge of possession of an illegal firearm, although they may also charge him with attempted hijacking. In Sweden, that could carry a sentence of between six months and life imprisonment.

Sources say it's unlikely he'll be released on bail. It is possible that Chatty could be moved to the city of Uppsala, north of Vasteras, as the chief public prosecutor Thomas Hajjstrom has become involved in the case. He appointed defense attorney Nils Uggla to represent Chatty, despite they're being to request for such an appointment.

Uggla denies that his client was a would-be hijacker, and that he has an explanation as to why he was carrying a loaded pistol in his hand luggage. Chatty has understood to have attended flight school in the United States, the North American Institute of Aviation in Conway, South Carolina, but did not finish his training there. He was training to fly small aircraft, Cessnas and Pipers, although Swedish sources say that he could have completed his course elsewhere.

There have been reports that this incident was part of a plan to attack a U.S. embassy somewhere in Europe. That's something that's been denied by Swedish authorities. They also deny that they're looking for four other men in connection with the incident, although police sources say they are investigating possible terrorist links in this case. CNN has been unable to confirm whether the CIA has sent agents to Sweden to assist in the investigation, as well as officers from Britain's counterespionage service, MI-5. Swedish sources say they think it's unlikely that the Swedish authorities would have requested assistance from the United States or indeed any other country, although agents may have been sent independently.

CNN sources also deny that Swedish federal security police have been instructed to play down the incident at this politically sensitive time, just two weeks before an election. They say it's highly unlikely that Swedish politicians would interfere in this sensitive police case -- Renay.

SAN MIGUEL: Diana, one quick question. Has there been any explanation from the suspect or from his attorney about what that loaded handgun was doing in the carry-on in the first place?

MURIEL: We haven't been given the details, but Nils Uggla, the lawyer for Chatty, has said that he has received an explanation from his clients. He has passed that explanation on to the police, but he cannot give us that information at this stage. We are expecting to know more when he is charged tomorrow, either here in Vasteras or in Uppsala. We hope to have those details then -- Renay.

SAN MIGUEL: OK, Diana Muriel, reporting from central Sweden on the phone. Thank you very much.

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