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”.

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Malmö police urge calm ahead of Quran burning in run-up to Eurovision

Updated: Malmö police are urging the public not to let themselves be provoked by the expected burning of a Quran on Friday, just before Eurovision week gets under way in the southern Swedish city.

Malmö police urge calm ahead of Quran burning in run-up to Eurovision

The protest, which is set to be held in central Malmö on the afternoon of May 3rd, has been granted permission by police to go ahead.

“We can’t reject [the permit]. Police have been criticised when we have rejected permits in various ways. There have been court decisions and we look at each case very thoroughly. But every situation is unique,” senior police officer Per Engström told the TT newswire.

“This is a call for everyone in the area to let it pass. The purpose is to cause offence and upset, but we’re telling the public to try to keep calm,” he added.


Several other, separate, protests are also expected to go ahead in Malmö in the coming week, both in support and in protest of the European Broadcasting Union’s decision to let Israel participate in the song contest despite the brutal war with Hamas in Gaza.

Israel has warned its citizens not to visit Malmö during the week of Eurovision.

Quran burnings have become a hot topic in Sweden in recent years, including sparking fury in several Muslim countries which even put Sweden’s Nato application at risk. In Malmö, which has a large Muslim population, similar incidents have sparked riots on some occasions.

Police have little power to prevent protests featuring Quran burnings due to Sweden’s strong freedom of speech laws.

That’s not to say that setting a religious text on fire could never be prosecuted under hate crime laws (it all depends on context, as this court case shows), but Swedish law says that the police are only allowed to refuse a permit for a demonstration if it is “necessary to do so with respect to public order or safety at the gathering or, as a direct consequence of the gathering, in its immediate surroundings”.

This means that they cannot refuse a permit even if somebody says they are going to do something illegal, as long as it doesn’t endanger anyone.

Another application for a demonstration permit from the same people, a man and a woman, to walk through Malmö on Saturday while carrying Israeli flags and pulling a copy of the Quran on a leash has been denied by police. That’s because two people going for a walk through the city does not qualify as a public gathering and therefore does not need a formal permit.

A third application to burn a copy of the Quran in Rosengård, an immigrant-heavy area of Malmö, on Sunday is still being processed by police and hasn’t yet received a decision.

Updated to add the last two paragraphs