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Anti-gay pastor: I regret nothing

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11:50 CET+01:00
A high profile case that pitches Sweden's laws on protection of minority groups against those concerning freedom of speech began its final round in the Supreme Court on Wednesday.

Pastor Åke Green, who, in a sermon delivered in 2003, said that homosexuality is "a cancer on the body of society", is being tried under Swedish laws banning 'agitation against minority groups'.

Initially, he was sentenced to a month in prison by a Kalmar court. The Appeal Court in Jönköping overturned the verdict, only for the prosecutor to take the case to the country's highest court.

The pastor arrived in good time for Wednesday's hearing and chatted beforehand with both journalists and supporters, including a pair of bikers from the "Holy Riders" group, who unveiled a banner with the text "Defend religious freedom!".

Although there was not the same crowd which gathered for Green's appeal, the pastor said that he had strong support.

"Just wait until four o'clock this evening when everyone arrives in buses from across the country," he said.

"Then you'll see the support - I'm not too worried about it."

Green has said that if the Supreme Court reinstates the original guilty verdict, he would rather serve his sentence in prison than do community service.

"Then I want to demonstrate how far Sweden has come from the Sweden which people want. I believe that people should have the opportunity to speak of their convictions without ending up in jail and I want to show how insane the situation has become."

A journalist put it to Åke Green that he wants to become a martyr.

"Absolutely not, and I don't think I'll become one either. I just want to emphasise this. It feels good that we're here now, and actually I'm looking forward to it," said Green, shortly before the trial began.

"It's a long time since a pentacostalist pastor was in the Supreme Court for his way of preaching. I think I'll have the opportunity to get the message out once again," he said.

The pastor emphasised that he does not regret anything he said in his controversial sermon, the details of which only came to light when Green himself distributed the text to the local media in Borgholm, on the island of Öland.

"I don't take back what I said. What I wanted was a debate on this, and that's what I got. My message is that people should live according to the laws of creation and what is normal, with families with woman, man and child. I think that homosexuality and that lifestyle is abnormal and I think I should have the freedom to say that."

Robert Karlsson Svärd was one of the few people demonstrating against Green outside the courtroom. He held a sign saying "I am not a cancer".

"I'm here because it is society's responsibility to protest against the kind of views which Åke Green stands for and has expressed," he said.

"It leads to increased prejudice against me and people who are like me. It also leads to more harassment and violence in the long run, and I think that is very wrong."

This is the first time in two years that the Supreme Court has been required to make a decision on the law preventing agitation against minority groups. In that time the definition has been widened to include sexual orientation, making this a test case.

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