Swedish police rounded up 20 people yesterday, including 12 Kurds, for questioning in connection with the nearly year-old murder of Prime Minister Olof Palme and other crimes. But despite the drama, the hunt for Palme's killer may have reached a new dead end. Three of those taken in, including one Kurd, will be questioned on suspicion of involvement in Palme's killing. But Stockholm chief prosecutor Claes Zeime told journalists yesterday there was not sufficient evidence to charge any of the three with any crime.
Stockholm police chief Hans Holmer, who has headed the search for the internationally known Swedish statesman's killer since he was shot down on a main Stockholm street last Feb. 28, said for the first time publicly that Kurdish extremists were the prime suspects in the case.
Despite numerous newspaper reports about the increasing focus of the investigation on a Kurdish radical group, PKK (Kurdish Workers' Party), Mr. Holmer and other police spokesmen have kept a virtual news blackout on any details of the manhunt.
One possible motive for the PKK mentioned in the Swedish press has been the Swedish government's decision in 1984 to declare the PKK a terrorist group in Sweden. It has also been suggested in the press that the PKK may have wanted to show defectors from the group that it could kill anyone it wanted to.
Yesterday's joint press conference by the police and prosecutor's office was the first time reporters had been summoned in the Palme case since early last summer.
The meeting seemed to confirm numerous press reports that Mr. Zeime, the prosecutor, had little faith in Holmer's ``main lead.'' The prosecutor said he did not think the raids represented any advance in the investigation of Palme's death. There was ``no dramatic change in the evidence situation,'' Zeime said. Several previous leads in the investigation have fallen short because of lack of evidence.
Holmer spoke of the natural ``tug of war between the police, who want to test theories, and the prosecutors, who must prepare the trial.''
Holmer said he believed he would capture Palme's killer and was still ``95 percent sure'' of his main lead involving Kurdish extremists. He would not comment on how the release of the three suspected of being accomplices in Palme's killing would hurt the investigation.
At yesterday's press conference, police also said they were questioning a person suspected of illegal weapons dealings to see whether he may have supplied the large-caliber revolver used to shoot Palme. That murder weapon has not been recovered.