– We believe Bhatti is in Pakistan and have requested the Pakistani authorities to get assistance in locating and apprehending him. We cooperate well with the Pakistani authorities, then we’ll see if we succeed in getting him arrested and extradited to Norway, says police attorney Børge Enoksen in the Oslo police district to NTB.
The police stated at a press conference on Friday that a Norwegian citizen in his 40s has been charged in the case, and referred to the duty of confidentiality as the reason for not wanting to name the wanted man.
Several media reported at the same time that the accused is 45-year-old Arfan Bhatti. On Friday afternoon, however, the Oslo police confirmed that it is Bhatti they have charged.
– We choose to deviate from the obligation of confidentiality and confirm that it is Bhatti because the name has appeared in the media. We are therefore doing this to avoid speculation, says Enoksen.
Relationship between Bhatti and Matapour
Two people were killed, ten were seriously injured and eleven were slightly injured when Zaniar Matapour (43) opened fire at the nightclubs Per på kørket and the gay pub London pub on CJ Hambros plass by the Oslo courthouse on the night of Saturday 25 June.
Several media wrote on the same day as the mass shooting at the two nightclubs, that Zaniar Matapour, who is charged with the attack, and Bhatti had a relationship.
A Facebook post Bhatti published a little over a week before the mass shooting also received attention this summer because it could be interpreted as a call for the murder of homosexuals.
– When you now accuse him of complicity, is it more than this Facebook post that you are basing it on, Enoksen?
– Yes, that is correct, but I cannot go into more detail about what it is.
– How active a role do you think Bhatti had in the mass shooting?
– I cannot comment on that.
No extradition agreement
Norway has no extradition agreement with Pakistan, but Enoksen believes that it may still be possible to have Bhatti extradited.
– Our cooperation with the Pakistani authorities has resulted in Norwegian citizens being extradited on previous occasions, so we hope that can happen here as well.
He says that an extradition can still take a long time, and that the time it takes depends, among other things, on whether the accused consents to the extradition.
Lawyer John Christian Elden, who has represented Bhatti several times in the legal system, tells VG that the Islamist has been questioned by the Pakistani police.
– I spoke to him half an hour ago at the latest. We wrote to the police in July that they could contact him at any time if they wanted to speak to him. He has since been questioned by Pakistani police on behalf of Norwegian colleagues, as well as been to the embassy and received a new passport. Neither he nor we have heard of any search warrants, says Elden to VG.
Elden tells TV 2 that he doubts that the Pakistani police will find grounds to arrest the 45-year-old.
Rejects Norwegian invitation
In an SMS to NTB, Elden writes that they did not know about the wanted list until it was announced at the press conference on Friday.
– It came without warning and was only announced via the press conference, not to Bhatti or me. They have his number, email and address, and could only make contact, Elden writes.
– The Norwegian authorities, via the Pakistani police, have twice visited his home in July and August and spoken to him, says Elden.
Later on Friday, he told VG that Bhatti will go to the Pakistani police again after the wanted man became known.
However, police prosecutor Børge Enoksen denies to NTB that Bhatti has been questioned by Pakistani authorities at the request of Norwegian police.
– We are aware that Elden has said this in the media, but it is not something we stand behind. Bhatti has not been questioned at our request, he says.
– I do not know whether the Oslo police district, PST or the E-service is the client, but I am very convinced that the Pakistani intelligence service did not, on their own initiative, question him about a road trip to Stovner in April and his knowledge of Matapour, is Elden’s comment to NTB .
New defender will not comment
Elden already represents co-accused Zaniar Matapour and asked Bhatti on Friday to ask for Svein Holden to be appointed as a new defender, NTB is informed by Elden.
The Oslo District Court appointed followed the call on Friday afternoon and appointed Holden as his defender.
– I can confirm that I have undertaken assignments for him, says Holden to NTB.
He will not comment on whether he has been in contact with Bhatti on Friday, or how the client reacts to the charge.
– Have you been connected to this case before today?
– No comment.
Børge Enoksen said at the press conference on Friday morning that the hypothesis that the attack was carried out with terrorist intent has been strengthened.
He explains that Oslo District Court has decided on the evidence in the case and whether the conditions for arrest are present. The court has concluded that there is good reason to suspect Bhatti following the charge.
– In order to have a person arrested and extradited from another country, you must have a legal decision from Norway, says Enoksen.
– Why has it taken as long as three months to bring charges?
– That is because it is a complex matter. It is information we have received, which has ultimately led us to believe it is correct. It was absolutely central for us to discover whether there were others behind this action. And now we have taken the step of charging a person with complicity, says Enoksen
The police prosecutor says that there are now 260 victims in the case, and that a total of 570 interviews have been carried out.
The main accused in the case, Zaniar Matapour, is in custody and charged with murder and attempted murder with terrorist intent. He has still not been questioned.
PST is still assisting the Oslo police district in the case.
Counsel for many of the victims, Christian Lundin, says the police have done a thorough and good job with the investigation after the shooting attack.
– I take note that the police believe what the PST has always claimed – that this is terrorism. With my clients in mind, this also strengthens the impression that the attack was aimed at a large group of people to create fear, says Lundin to Dagbladet.