Swedish MPs to meet Hamas representatives

Representatives of the Hamas government are to meet Swedish members of parliament in Stockholm. The organisers of the meeting are the Green Party's Yvonne Ruwaida and the Social Democrats' Mariam Osman Sherifay.

“When we heard that they were coming to Sweden we got in touch. We want a dialogue,” said Yvonne Ruwaida.

No timescale for the meeting has been set since the representatives’ entry visas are yet to be arranged, but it will be held in conjunction with the controversial Malmö trip.

When a date and time is fixed, other members of parliament will be invited, according to Ruwaida.

“The situation in Gaza and the West Bank has never been so bad as it is now,” she said, arguing that a dialogue is needed, not a boycott.

“A boycott could mean that Hamas is isolated and ultimately only has contact with the Muslim world, and that would be unfortunate. We want to break the isolation,” she said.

Ruwaida welcomed the Norwegian government’s attitude, where officials from the foreign ministry are to meet the Hamas representatives.

In such a meeting, issues can be raised and criticisms put forward, she said.

“We consider that both Hamas and the new Israeli government must respect the UN resolutions regarding a two-state solution. We ask for respect from both parties and that’s what we want to convey,” said Ruwaida.

Opposition parties have protested against the fact that three Palestinian organisations in Malmö have invited Salah Muhammad al-Bardawil, Hamas group leader in the Palestinian parliament, and Muhammad al-Rantissi, brother of the former Hamas leader Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi, to the city as part of a European tour.

They will visit Norway on May 15th and Malmö the day after.

The leader of the Christian Democrats, Göran Hägglund, reacted swiftly to the news that members of parliament were planning a meeting. He called for prime minister Göran Persson to intervene to block the meeting.

“Is Sweden to offer a platform to a terrorist organisation? Göran Persson cannot remain neutral to this,” he wrote in a press statement.

Protesting against the visit does not, according to Hägglund, mean rejecting dialogue.

“It is protesting against a group which is not capable of distancing itself from the absolute opposite of dialogue – blowing innocent people to bits to attain goals,” he wrote.


Malmö man freed from terror financing charges

A Malmö court has acquitted the head of the al-Aqsa Foundation in Sweden on charges that he used funds from the charity to support Hamas.

Malmö man freed from terror financing charges

“This is good. Now the work of sending money to children can continue,” said defence attorney Laue Traberg Smidt to the TT news agency.

Khalid al-Yousef had been charged with violated terror financing laws, with an alternative charge of violated sanctions laws.

As head of al-Aqsa Spannmål, the Swedish branch of the al-Aqsa Foundation, al-Yousef oversaw the collection of donations for Palestinian children suffering in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

According to the indictment, however, money ended up at organizations with ties to Hamas, which is designated as a terrorist organization by the European Union (EU).

Deputy chief prosecutor Agnetha Hilding Qvarnström wanted al-Yousef to be sent to prison, claiming that Hamas was strengthened as a result of the charity’s activities.

During the trial she attempted to prove that the organizations which receive funding from al-Aqsa Spannmål were tied to Hamas.

Al-Yousef had collected more than 4 million kronor ($460,000) through the foundation, with about half of the proceeds supporting activities in the West Bank and Gaza, while other parts of his fund were frozen by authorities in the United States and Britain.

Traberg Smidt is especially please with the court’s reasons for the acquittal.

In its ruling, the Malmö District Court stated that Hamas and Israel have a relationship to one another akin to a state of war.

That Israel has declared illegal a number of organizations to which al-Yousef’s foundation sent money holds no importance, according to the court.

The court also considered the many newspaper articles, television reports, book excerpts and websites presented by the prosecutor as having “very low” value as evidence.