Sweden to make it illegal to be active in a terrorist organisation

Sweden's government has submitted a new terror bill which could help convince Turkey that the country is acting to crack down on Swedish residents active in the Kurdish PKK terror group.

Sweden to make it illegal to be active in a terrorist organisation
Justice Minister Gunnar Strömmer at a press conference announcing the plans. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT

The new proposal, titled “a special penalty provision for participation in a terrorist organisation”, will make participation in the activities of a terrorist organisation in any way that “promotes, strengthens or supports” the organisation punishable with up to four years in prison. 

“This is a wider criminalisation that takes aim at a slew of activities within a terrorist organisation that don’t need to be concretely connected to a specific terrorist crime,” Justice Minister Gunnar Strömmer told a press conference.

“Sweden has an increased terrorist threat which must be taken very seriously,” he continued. “Now the government is putting forward a legislative proposal which means that both participation in and financing of participation in terrorist organisations will be punishable.” 

Actions such as handling equipment, organising camps or locations for meetings, cooking or being in charge of transport for designated terrorist organisations would be criminalised under the new law, which Strömmer stressed was a “considerable widening of the scope compared to current legislation”.

In November, the country amended its constitution to allow the proposed bill to move forward, as it was deemed to infringe on Sweden’s freedom of association laws.

The proposal will now go to Sweden’s Council on Legislation, which judged a previous proposal to ban membership of a terror organisation, brought in in the wake the 2017 Stockholm terror attack, as in conflict with Sweden’s constitution right to free association. 

Under the proposal, serious cases of the new crime will be punishable by up to eight years in prison, while those found guilty of holding a leadership position in a terror organisation could be jailed for 18 years or even for life. 

The proposal criminalises all forms of support for terror organisations, regardless of whether it is financial or other ways of taking part in it, promoting it and strengthening it. 

Strömmer noted that “partaking in a demonstration or at a meeting will not in itself be punishable”, adding that said flag-waving in itself would not be criminalised but such activities could potentially be used as evidence in court.

The government hopes to be able to submit the proposal to parliament on March 7th, and for it to come into force by June 1st. 

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Sweden greenlights anti-Nato protest despite Turkey warning

Sunday’s Stockholm demonstration against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Sweden's planned Nato membership has been given the go-ahead despite Ankara's objections, Swedish police told AFP on Friday.

Sweden greenlights anti-Nato protest despite Turkey warning

“We are going to ensure that all those present on Sunday are able to exercise their rights protected by the constitution”, including freedom of expression, Stockholm police spokesman Ola Osterling said.

The demonstration, which is scheduled to take place on Sunday in the city centre, is titled “No to Nato, No Erdogan Laws in Sweden”.

It is organised by the “Alliance against Nato”, which includes the pro-Kurdish Rojava Committee among others.

Erdogan, who was re-elected for five more years on May 28th, has so far blocked Sweden’s Nato membership, accusing Stockholm of being a haven for Kurdish activists Turkey considers “terrorists”.

He has also demanded that Stockholm extradite several dozen activists, though those decisions can only be made by Sweden’s independent judiciary.

READ ALSO: Can Sweden’s new terror law be used to stop an anti-Nato demonstration?

Earlier this week, Ankara expressed its frustration over the planned demonstration, organised by groups close to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is outlawed by Turkey.

Even though the PKK is also considered a terrorist organisation in Sweden – as in the rest of the EU – its supporters are generally allowed to protest in public.

A spokesman for the Turkish presidency on Tuesday said it was “completely unacceptable that PKK terrorists continue to operate freely in Sweden” and urged Swedish authorities to block them from demonstrating on Sunday.

A new law beefing up Sweden’s anti-terror efforts came into effect on June 1st, criminalising “participation in a terrorist organisation”.

But the new law is not aimed at attacking freedom of speech, Sweden’s justice minister reiterated on Friday.

Asked about the possible presence of PKK activists at Sunday’s demonstration, the police spokesman said they were “also protected by the constitution.”

READ ALSO: Nato chief to travel to Ankara to push for Sweden’s Nato membership

“This demonstration will go very well, that’s how we see the situation,” Osterling said.

Turkey and Hungary are the only two Nato countries yet to ratify Sweden’s membership bid. Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg will visit Turkey during the weekend to attend Erdogan’s inauguration and try to lift the final obstacles.