A Swedish court on Saturday ordered a former mental patient be held in custody for two more weeks on suspicion of having assassinated Prime Minister Olof Palme nearly three years ago.

The 41-year-old suspect, a convicted killer with a history of violent crimes, first appeared in court as the subject of the Palme slaying investigation two weeks ago when he was remanded to give the prosecution time to prepare its case.The Stockholm district court on Saturday ordered the man to be further detained after hearing new evidence against him.

"We hope to have our charges ready by Jan. 13," chief prosecutor Anders Helin said afterward.

The half-hour private hearing was delayed because the suspect, who cannot be named under Swedish law, refused to leave his prison cell and attend the court session.

"Among other reasons, he did not want to be subjected to the media again," his lawyer Arne Liljeros said.

Liljeros says his client denies murdering Palme, who was gunned down at point blank range as he walked home from a movie theater with his wife, Lisbet.

"There is information which speaks both for and against my client, but I would not be surprised if the case comes to trial," Liljeros told reporters after the hearing.

The prosecution has until January 13 to press formal charges against the suspect, in which case a trial date must be set, or apply for another 14-day remand extension.

An unlimited number of extensions can be authorized by the court if the prosecution can prove sufficient grounds.

The nature of the prosecution evidence remains unknown, but the arrest of a criminal loner has dampened numerous political theories on the unsolved Feb. 28, 1986, slaying.

Forensic scientists are examining the suspect's clothing.

Swedish television has reported that the suspect was identified in a lineup as a man prowling the streets around the theater in central Stockholm on the night of the assassination.