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Turku stabbing suspect speaks of desire to decapitate victims as trial begins in Southwest Finland prison

The entire trial will take place at the auditorium of the Turku prison. On Monday the accused, Abderrahman Bouanane, showed his face to the public for the first time.

Aberrahman Bouanane
The accused, Abderrahmen Bouanane appeared in court via a live video link from the auditorium of the Turku prison. Image: Antti Aimo-Koivisto / Lehtikuva

The Southwest Finland District Court began hearings Monday morning in the trial of a young Moroccan man accused of a deadly stabbing spree in Turku last August.

Abderrahman Bouanane faces charges on two counts of murder with terrorist intent and eight counts of attempted murder with terrorist intent over the stabbing attack that claimed the lives of two women and injured with others.

In its opening statement, the prosecution offered a detailed reconstruction of the events leading up to the attacks, based on a preliminary investigation by the National Bureau of Investigation, NBI. Prosecutor Hannu Koistinen said that Bouanane continued his attempts to harm people even after police had arrived on the scene, adding that it indicated his desire to claim as many victims as possible.

“His intention was to kill and perhaps to die by a police bullet,” Koistinen noted.

He stated that during the investigation, Bouanane had told police that he wanted to be shot by police, in other words, to die a martyr.

After the prosecution had offered its opening remarks, the accused asked for permission to speak. Bouanane said that his initial intention was to kill two people by decapitating them. He added that after the first victim had been killed, he thought of hiding to continue his actions later. He further stated that his goal was to decapitate two or more people.

The court then adjourned for lunch.

Video link from Turku prison to court house

In an unusual turn, the entire trial will take place at the auditorium of the Turku prison, where the accused bared his face to the public for the first time. The trial is expected to last until mid-May and the court has reserved two days for questioning the defendant. He will take the stand next Tuesday and Wednesday.

Although the trial is public, interested parties will not be allowed into the prison facilities, but will be able to follow the proceedings from the Turku court house via a live video link. Members of the media were allowed into the prison for the opening session of the trial Monday morning, but will not be allowed to return for subsequent sessions.

In March, the National Institute for Health and Welfare THL declared that Bouanane was criminally responsible for his actions in Turku last year. The defendant himself had requested the psychiatric evaluation.

Prosecution seeks life sentence

The prosecution is calling for a lifetime prison sentence on conviction for offences committed with terrorist intent, and has argued that the aim of the attacks was to foment fear among citizens of Finland and other European states. It will be left to the prosecution to bring sufficient evidence to prove its claim of terrorist intent.

The prosecution is expected to call some 40 witnesses to testify about the events of 18 August last year. They include persons injured in the attack as well as eyewitnesses who were at the scene. One of the witnesses is British-born resident of Sweden, Hassan Zubier, who was seriously injured when he tried to assist one of the defendant’s first victims.

During a preliminary hearing three weeks ago, Bouanane stated that his actions fulfilled the definition of murders committed with terrorist intent. However, his defence lawyer Kaarle Gummerus disagreed, saying that while his client admitted to the killings and to causing bodily harm, he denied that his actions had been deliberate.

The defence further challenged the view that the defendant’s actions had been premeditated or committed in any especially cruel or brutal manner. The defence team also argued that Bouanane’s actions did not meet the hallmarks of terrorism by causing public alarm and harming the state.

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