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16 people linked to the Hells Angels motorcycle gang appeared before a judge in Glostrup on charges of attempted murder, assault and weapons possession.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

One of the nation’s biggest trials involving gang crime got underway this week when 16 people linked to the Hells Angels motorcycle gang appeared before a judge in Glostrup on charges of attempted murder, assault and weapons possession.

The 16 – all members of the Hells Angels or the affiliated gang AK81 – pleaded innocent to all charges. They are alleged to have taken part in six attempted murders between April and October 2009 during an open conflict between the Hells Angels and immigrant gangs.

While Danish prosecutors have previously taken a page from US prosecutors of the 1930s gang wars by prosecuting gangsters for financial crimes, this trial sees the prosecution directly linking gang members to violent crimes.

That has been made possible thanks to the testimony of a 25-year-old former leading member of AK81, who has explained that the attempted murders, as well as a brutal beating of a rival gang member using a baseball bat, were ordered by senior Hells Angel Brian Sandberg, one of the men standing trial.

The witness has already been sentenced to 12 years behind bars for his role in the shooting of a 19-year-old during the conflict.

By testifying against his former brothers-in-arms, prosecutors say the man has put his life in jeopardy, and extensive measures will be taken to protect him during the trial.

Among the accommodations include holding the trial in Glostrup, which police say can be more easily held under surveillance than Copenhagen’s court house. When he testifies in May, he will do so in front of an empty courtroom.

In order to protect him, the gallery, made up of a mix of gang members and reporters during the first days of the trial, will be cleared of spectators. His testimony will then be transmitted to them via speakers in a separate room.

It emerged on the first day of the trial that the prosecution’s star witness was threatened by fellow gang members after it emerged that he had broken his biker code of silence by speaking to his girlfriend about other crimes he had been tried for.

The threats of reprisals forced him to seek protection from the police, and it was during those meetings, prosecutors said, that the man began to talk about the 2009 attacks.

In return for his testimony, the man has been promised a reduced jail time and police protection after his release. As a sign of the seriousness of the threats against the man, one previous informant was required to undergo plastic surgery in order to disguise his appearance.

While the prosecution is expected to rely heavily on the informant’s testimony, prosecutor Charlotte Alsing Juhl said the state will also call eyewitnesses and experts to testify, and that it would present forensic evidence.

The trial is expected to continue until September.

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A person charged with a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty

A person charged with a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty

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