Sweden trial of sniper who shot immigrants begins

STOCKHOLM Mon May 14, 2012 9:24am EDT

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STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - A Swedish man prosecutors say was interested in a jailed racist murderer known as "Laser Man" went on trial on Monday charged with carrying out a series of sometimes fatal copycat sniper attacks on immigrant victims.

In a case that has highlighted tensions with foreigners in a Nordic region already traumatized by Norwegian mass killer Anders Behring Breivik, Swedish prosecutors have charged Peter Mangs, 40, with three murders and 12 attempted murders.

"I am seeking a guilty sentence for murder," chief prosecutor Solveig Wollstad told the court as she began to set out her case against him on Monday.

Mangs, who was arrested in late 2010 after a massive manhunt, has pleaded not guilty to all the serious charges, but guilty to two counts of causing property damage.

Prior to his arrest, he had allegedly taken sniper shots at people in Malmo, mostly immigrants, over a 12-month period, killing one person. Prosecutors say he also killed two people in 2003.

One victim was shot though a window while he was working out in a gym. Two men were shot as they sat in a parked car, and another was shot in the back while waiting for a bus. Some of the shootings were in broad daylight.

Prosecutors painted an image of Mangs as a man obsessed with guns who was hostile to immigrants and had an interest in the "Laser man", a racist gunman who used a rifle equipped with laser sights to shoot at immigrants in the early 1990s.

Prosecutors showed the court two pistols they said were owned by Mangs, a laser sight, and a combat vest used for carrying knives as well as ammunition found in his flat.

ANTI-IMMIGRANT UNDERCURRENT

Events in Malmo, Sweden's third-largest city and home to many immigrants, and the July 2011 rampage by Breivik, who killed 77 people, have shown there is an extreme right-wing anti-immigrant undercurrent in parts of Nordic society.

The Nordic states have active anti-immigration parties in their parliaments, though they have rejected violence. Most major political parties in the Nordic states back immigration.

Malmo has earned itself a reputation as being a centre of crime in recent years due to the sniper attacks and a spate of shootings police have attributed to gang activities.

With a population of just 300,000, it is regarded as one of Sweden's roughest cities, long a base for smugglers because of its proximity to Denmark, with which it has been connected by a bridge since July 2000.

Roughly 40 percent of Malmo's population are first- or second-generation immigrants and one in three is unemployed, compared with a national jobless rate under nine percent. Among young immigrants, the rate is nearly 40 percent.

(Editing by Alistair Scrutton and Andrew Osborn)

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