Iraq asks Sweden to extradite Quran burner – but is it even possible?

Baghdad has asked Sweden to extradite Iraqi refugee Salwan Momika, who stoked international outrage by desecrating the Quran. But it may be a futile request.

Iraq asks Sweden to extradite Quran burner – but is it even possible?
Salwan Momika at a rally in Malmö in September. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

“Iraq wants him extradited because he burned a Quran outside the mosque (in Stockholm) in June,” lawyer David Hall told AFP after Swedish police questioned Momika in connection with the extradition request.

“To be extradited to another country, the law (in Sweden) dictates that the crime has to be a crime in both Sweden and Iraq,” Hall said.

Burning Islam’s holy book “is not a crime in Sweden, so it’s not possible for Sweden to extradite him”.

The Swedish government has condemned the desecrations of the Quran but upheld the country’s laws regarding freedom of speech and assembly.

“I don’t understand why they (Iraq) bother with such a demand. I’m sure the Iraqi government understands this,” Hall added.

Momika told AFP that Iraq was seeking his extradition “so that I can be judged and held accountable in Iraq according to Islamic laws”.

“I will file a complaint against Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein because he committed a political crime against me,” he added.

Momika has burned Qurans at a slew of protests in Sweden since June, sparking widespread outrage and condemnation in Muslim countries.

Iraqi protesters stormed the Swedish embassy in Baghdad twice in July, starting fires within the compound on the second occasion.

Sweden’s intelligence agency heightened its terror alert level in mid-August to four on a scale of five after the angry reactions made the country a “prioritised target”.

The Swedish government is exploring legal means of stopping protests involving the burning of holy texts in certain circumstances, but it is not certain there will be a majority for a change of legislation.

Hall said Momika’s extradition case would likely go as high as the Swedish Supreme Court and a decision “could take several weeks or a few months”.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Iran demands Sweden act against Quran burnings, free prisoner

Iran has demanded Sweden take action over Quran burnings before the two countries can exchange ambassadors again, and urged it to release a jailed Iranian citizen, the foreign ministry said Sunday.

Iran demands Sweden act against Quran burnings, free prisoner

Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian discussed the Koran issue with his Swedish counterpart Tobias Billstrom on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, the foreign ministry said.

“Regarding the exchange of ambassadors, we are waiting for good action on the issue of the Holy Quran in Sweden,” Iran’s top envoy told Billstrom in New York, the Iranian ministry said in a statement.

Sweden has seen a series of public burnings of the Islamic holy book. Stockholm has voiced condemnation but said it cannot stop acts protected under laws on free expression.

Iran said in July it would not allow a new Swedish ambassador into the country after the mission of the last envoy ended.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi days ago held up a Koran at the UN rostrum and declared that “the fires of disrespect will not overcome the divine truth”, also condemning “Islamophobia and cultural apartheid” in the West.

Amir-Abdollahian told his Swedish counterpart that “defending the values of Sweden at the cost of ignoring the values of two billion Muslims in the world is unacceptable”.


He also urged Stockholm to release Hamid Noury, an Iranian arrested in November 2019 and sentenced to life in prison after being convicted over the mass executions of prisoners ordered by Tehran in 1988.

“We expect that the Swedish government will make a wise and courageous decision in the appeal stage and release Mr Noury,” the minister said, adding that “we are ready for positive and constructive cooperation in various fields”.

The statement did not address Swedish nationals incarcerated in Iran, including the EU diplomat Johan Floderus, 33, who has been detained for more than 500 days.

In July last year, Iran announced it had arrested a Swede on suspicion of espionage, and earlier this month Iran’s judiciary stated that the Swedish citizen had committed crimes Iran.

Another Iranian-Swedish citizen, the academic Ahmadreza Djalali, is at risk of being hanged after a conviction on the charge of “corruption on earth” in Iran, which does not recognise dual nationality. He was sentenced to death in 2017 for allegedly spying for Israel, an accusation his family vehemently rejects.

In May, Iran hanged another Swedish-Iranian, Habib Chaab, on a terrorism conviction, drawing strong condemnation from Sweden. Chaab, an Iranian dissident, had been held in the Islamic republic since October 2020 after he vanished during a visit to Turkey.

Chaab had also been convicted of “corruption on earth” after being found guilty of heading a rebel group accused of staging attacks in Iran since 2005.

Iran executes more people yearly than any other nation except China, according to human rights groups including Amnesty International.