44 year-old man faces severe terrorism charges for Oslo gay bar shooting

A 44-year-old man has entered a plea of not guilty to terrorism charges as his trial begins for the alleged murder of two individuals in a shooting incident at two bars in Oslo.

During the trial’s commencement, a three-minute police video depicting CCTV footage of the 2022 attack outside the bars during Pride celebrations in Oslo was presented. The footage captured passersby wrestling the suspect, Zaniar Matapour, to the ground.

Prosecutors have indicated that the court will need to determine the defendant’s mental state at the time of the incident.

The police video, sourced from three closed-circuit cameras, tracked the movements of the gunman, identified as Zaniar Matapour, who was clad in a yellow T-shirt and cap. The assailant fired shots at patrons outside the Per Pa Hjornet bar and the London Pub, both popular among Oslo’s LGBTQ+ community.

Two people aged 54 and 60 lost their lives in the attack, while nine others sustained gunshot wounds, with several additional individuals injured. Police suspect the attack targeted Oslo’s LGBTQ+ community due to extreme religious motives, occurring during the closing hours of the Pride festival on June 25, 2022.

Upon viewing the video, spectators within the courtroom, as reported by Norwegian correspondents, expressed visible shock.

When questioned by Judge Eirik Aass regarding his plea, Matapour shook his head and questioned the timing of the trial during Ramadan, suggesting a conflict with the Muslim calendar. However, the judge noted no conflict between the trial proceedings and Ramadan.

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Prosecutor Sturla Henriksbo revealed that the suspect had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) shortly before the attack, detailing his movements leading up to the incident.

Matapour’s prior encounters with law enforcement, including psychiatric treatment during his teenage years, were disclosed, along with reports of his potential radicalization, leading to his involvement with Norway’s PST police security service in 2016.

Matapour has remained silent since his arrest, with no expectation of speaking in his defense during the trial. Although assessed as legally responsible for his actions prior to the trial, differing opinions among experts have surfaced.

If convicted, Matapour could face up to 30 years in prison or placement in a secure psychiatric facility.

Criticism was directed at Norway’s PST in the aftermath of the shooting, with a report suggesting the attack could have been prevented. The PST chief issued an apology for failing to respond to intelligence warnings of a possible threat.

Eleven days before the attack, Norwegian Islamist Arfan Bhatti posted a photo of a burning Pride flag on social media. Matapour had been seen with Bhatti earlier in 2022, prompting speculation that PST intervention could have thwarted the shooting.

Bhatti, currently in Pakistan, is resisting extradition to Norway and has denied any involvement in the attack.

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