Norway: Deadly Pride attack suspect jailed, refuses to talk

Kostya Manenkov and Jan M. Olsen
Associated Press

Oslo, Norway – The suspect in a deadly shooting ahead of an LGBTQ festival in the Norwegian capital, which authorities are treating as an Islamist attack, was ordered held Monday in pre-trial detention for four weeks – two of them in solitary confinement. He continued to refuse to be questioned.

Zaniar Matapour, a 42-year-old Norwegian citizen originally from Iran, was arrested shortly after Saturday’s predawn shooting in Oslo’s nightlife district and was held on suspicion of murder, attempted murder and terrorism. Two people were killed and more than 20 wounded in what the Norwegian security service called an “Islamist terror act.”

People comfort each other at the scene of a shooting in central Oslo, Norway, Saturday, June 25, 2022. A gunman who opened fire in Oslo's nightlife district has killed two people and left more than 20 others injured during the LGBTQ Pride festival in Norway's capital.

Prosecutor Ingvild Myrold told Norwegian media that police on Monday again tried to question Matapour for the third consecutive day, without success.

“We are sticking to this theory,” she told Norway’s daily Dagbladet about whether they were still treating the attack as an act of terrorism.

Matapour has refused to explain his actions to investigators. His lawyer, John Christian Elden, said his client objects to having his statement recorded and videotaped unless police release the entire recording to the public “with no time delay so it won’t be censored or manipulated.” Recording interrogations is a standard police practice.

Matapour arrived in Norway with his family from a Kurdish part of Iran in the 1990s, according to Norwegian media.

A Norwegian national flag flutters over flowers and rainbow flags that are placed at the scene of a shooting in central of Oslo, Norway, Sunday, June 26, 2022.

The gunman opened fire at three locations, including outside the London Pub, a popular gay bar in downtown Oslo. Police investigators have said it is too early to say whether the attacker specifically targeted the LGBTQ community.

Police on Monday identified the two victims as Kåre Arvid Hesvik, born in 1962, and Jon Erik Isachsen, born in 1968.

A Pride parade scheduled for Saturday was canceled because of the shooting.

In a joint statement on Monday, the head of Norway’s national police, Benedicte Bjørnland, and the acting security service chief Roger Berg said they would review their response to the shooting, saying “it is very important that … any weaknesses and errors are identified quickly in order to be able to implement measures.”

The agency known by its Norwegian acronym PST earlier had said that it first became aware of the suspect in 2015. It had talked to the suspect in May because he had shown interest in demonstrations and activities perceived as insulting to Islam. “Our assessment, after talking to the perpetrator, was that he did not have violent intentions,” it said.

PST also said that the suspect had a “long history of violence and threats,” as well as mental health issues.

After the attack, PST raised the threat scale from moderate to its highest level, adding the move “implies that there has been a terrorist attack and that there is an unresolved situation. We are continuously assessing the terrorism threat level.”

Police urged the cancelation of a spontaneous Pride parade in the aftermath of the attack, scheduled for later Monday, saying they cannot guarantee security. “We know that this can be big, and as long as we have such an unresolved threat situation, we cannot recommend that (the march) be implemented,” Martin Strand of the Oslo police said according to the Aftenposten daily.

–––

Olsen reported from Copenhagen, Denmark.