Uzbek Stockholm truck attacker sentenced to life in prison

TASHKENT (TCA) — A Swedish court has sentenced Uzbek national Rakhmat Akilov to life in prison for a truck attack that killed five people in Stockholm last year, RFE/RL reported.

Akilov “has among a series of crimes been found guilty of terrorist offense by murder in five cases. The penalty has been set to life imprisonment,” the Stockholm district court said on June 7.

Life sentences in Sweden are usually commuted to a fixed term, often about 16 to 18 years. The court ordered Akilov to be expelled from the country after he serves his sentence and be banned from ever returning.

Akilov has acknowledged he drove a hijacked truck down a busy pedestrian street in the center of the Swedish capital on April 7, 2017, killing three Swedes including an 11-year-old girl, a British man, and a Belgian woman. Ten other people were injured.

Rejected asylum seeker Akilov, 40, is the sole suspect and admitted at the start of the trial in February that he drove the truck, saying that his aim was to force Sweden to end its fight against the extremist group Islamic State (IS).

The prosecution called for Akilov to be found guilty of terrorism, seeking a life sentence to be followed by his expulsion from the Scandinavian country.

Akilov’s defense attorney, Johan Eriksson, called for a time-limited prison sentence, noting that his client cooperated with investigators after his arrest. After sentencing, Eriksson said his client was “disappointed” by the decision but had not yet decided whether to appeal.

Akilov, a construction worker and an ethnic Tajik from Uzbekistan whose asylum application was turned down by Sweden in 2016, had sworn allegiance to IS on the eve of his assault, but no organization claimed responsibility for the attack.

However, a joint investigation by RFE/RL’s Uzbek and Tajik services and Swedish news agency TT found that Akilov was in direct contact with alleged IS militants from Tajikistan before, during, and after the Stockholm attack.

Akilov had left a wife and four children behind in Uzbekistan in order to earn money to send home, according to reports.

Sweden, which is not a NATO member, has some 70 military personnel based mainly in northern Iraq to provide training as part of the U.S.-led coalition against IS.

Stockholm was one of several cities in Europe, including Barcelona, London, Berlin, and Nice, where vehicles have been used to target crowds of civilians in recent years.

Sergey Kwan