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The World | A YEAR AFTER

Swede Held Had Pilot Training in the U.S.

September 01, 2002|From Associated Press

STOCKHOLM — A Swedish man of Tunisian origin who was arrested with a gun in his carry-on luggage once attended a U.S. flight school, a top security official and the suspect's lawyer said Saturday. But the lawyer denied that the suspect was planning a hijacking.

The 29-year-old suspect, identified by his lawyer as Kerim Chatty, was being held on a preliminary charge of planning to hijack a plane and illegal possession of a firearm after he was detained Thursday at Vaesteraas airport in eastern Sweden. Police said he had been on his way to an Islamic conference in Birmingham, England.

Margareta Linderoth, director of the national security police, said authorities were investigating links to terrorist groups. But she denied a report that the suspect was planning to crash the aircraft into a U.S. Embassy in Europe or that they were looking for four men connected to such a plan.

Defense attorney Nils Uggla said his client, whose father is from Tunisia and mother from Sweden, has denied any plans to hijack the plane and can explain why he carried a gun in a toiletries bag. Uggla would not be more specific.

Linderoth said Chatty took pilot training at a school in the United States but did not complete the course and did not get a license.

Uggla said his client was being unfairly portrayed because of his religion and the proximity of the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States.

"He is Muslim, he is flying and he has a gun and it's close to 11 of September," Uggla said. "That makes people draw quick conclusions."

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