Refugee murder defendant in isolation

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A rejected refugee from South Sudan who’s charged with the stabbing deaths of three persons on board a bus in the mountains of Norway this week was ordered held in custody in full isolation on Thursday for at least the next four weeks. His defense attorney argued for his release.

Fredrik Verling, court-appointed attorney for the 30-year-old defendant, said the custody order was based on fears that his client could tamper with evidence, influence witnesses or avoid prosecution if released. Verling said in court that he didn’t think that would happen.

Still not talking
Prosecutor Sidsel Isachsen disagreed, arguing that he was likely to disappear if he wasn’t kept in custody pending his trial. She won the full support of the judge in the case, who ordered that he be held in isolation and that all mail and any visitors be monitored.

The defendant remained, meanwhile, in a psychiatric hospital in Bergen and still was not considered well enough to undergo police questioning on Thursday. He didn’t attend his custody hearing either.

Police remain anxious to question him about the fatal stabbings of two fellow passengers on board the bus bound from the mountain town of Årdal to Oslo Monday evening. The driver of the bus was also found mortally wounded and it’s believed the defendant, who suffered lacerations himself, murdered them all in what was initially described as a bus hijacking.

When others arrived on the scene he threatened them as well, including two ambulance drivers who arrived before police did and said they spent a half-hour trying to calm the man down. They told reporters that they apprehended him themselves, tying his hands with tape before they could attend to the others on board. All, however, were dead.

Motive unclear, had behaved ‘normally’
The motive for the bloody slayings remains unclear, but it’s been reported the man appeared desperate. He was due to have been deported the next day and the head of Norway’s advocacy association for asylum seekers told newspaper Aftenposten that the sheer uncertainty of a refugee’s situation can lead to severe psychological pressure.

Others who were acquainted with the man, who had been staying at a decentralized asylum center in Årdal since august, said he had never displayed any aggression or signs of mental instability. Newspaper Bergens Tidende reported that he was said to have behaved “normally,” watched a BBC newscast on TV and even made dinner for himself on the afternoon of the bus stabbings.

Aftenposten reported that South Sudan’s ambassador to Norway planned to travel to Bergen to visit the defendant on Friday. He’s believed to come from the Mayom district in Unity State in South Sudan but had lived in Khartoum before reportedly making his way to Egypt, Israel and Spain, where he first sought asylum. It’s unclear whether he had actually lived in a war zone in South Sudan. Norwegian authorities who had rejected his application for asylum had planned to send him back to Spain.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund