The Swedish authorities have filed criminal charges against a Syrian man who is suspected of having participated in the mass killing of captured Syrian soldiers in 2012.
The police arrested the man, Haisam Omar Sakhanh, on Friday, in the town of Karlskoga, Sweden, and charged him with a crime against international law.
In September 2013, The New York Times revealed the mass killings, publishing a video showing Syrian rebels killing seven captured soldiers, in Idlib Province in northwestern Syria. A former rebel, who was repulsed by the atrocities, provided a video of the killings to The Times.
On Monday, the Swedish authorities said that Mr. Sakhanh had traveled to Sweden in June 2013 and applied for asylum. During his initial meetings with immigration officials he was fingerprinted and interviewed, Detective Inspector Sven-Ake Blombergsson, of the war crimes unit of the Swedish Police Authority’s national operations department, said in a phone interview.
Mr. Sakhanh was found to have withheld details about time he had spent in Italy, including an arrest in 2012, Inspector Blombergsson said. The ensuing investigation linked Mr. Sakhanh to the video of the killings.
The commander, known as “The Uncle” by his fighters, fired the first shot, into the back of one prisoner’s head. Then the others opened fire. The man identified as Mr. Sakhanh was shown wearing a neat brown jacket and appeared relaxed and joking. He was holding a Kalashnikov rifle, with which he shot a helpless man at his feet.
During the inquiry, Inspector Blombergsson said, the investigators learned that Mr. Sakhanh lived for some time in a town near Milan, and had been arrested in February 2012 after participating in an occupation of the Syrian Embassy in Rome. He fled Italy and joined rebels in Syria, and began working with the commander known as the Uncle.
Fingerprints from his Swedish immigration application matched those from his criminal file in Italy, Inspector Blombergsson said, and in his mug shot from Italy he appears to be wearing the same brown jacket that the gunman wore in the mass killing video. The investigators also found another video of the prisoners, with many rebels posing behind them before the killing. Mr. Sakhanh was visible in that scene, too, the police said.
He faces life imprisonment in Sweden if convicted, Inspector Blombergsson said.
Italian officials said Monday that Mr. Sakhanh had been investigated by prosecutors in Milan in connection with several attacks in 2012 on Syrians in Lombardy who backed Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, and with the occupation of the embassy.
The Italian officials said they were building a terrorism case against Mr. Sakhanh and — like the Swedish authorities — had investigated him for links to the mass killing.
On Monday, Maurizio Romanelli, the prosecutor in Milan who oversaw the Italian investigation, called Sweden’s arrest of Mr. Sakhanh a “significant development,” and said he would contact his Swedish counterpart to discuss the cases.
In Sweden, the local prosecutor handling Mr. Sakhanh’s case, Kristina Lindhoff Carleson, has asked the judge to move the investigation from Orebro, a city in south-central Sweden about 25 miles east of Karlskoga, where Mr. Sakhanh was arrested, to Stockholm, the capital.
“This will be quite a long investigation,” Susanne Ekberg-Carlsson, Mr. Sakhanh’s court-appointed defense lawyer, said in a phone interview on Monday. “There will be more interrogations.”
She added: “The only thing I can say is that he has been interrogated by the police, of course. Today there was an arrest hearing in front of the judge. He opposed the arrest and he denied there is probable cause for the crimes he is suspected of.”