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Swastika display 'not a hate crime'

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14:51 CET+01:00
The bearer of a banner equating the swastika with the Star of David at a demonstration in Malmö during the summer will not face criminal charges.

Chief prosecutor Sven-Erik Alhem maintains that no crime was committed. But he is keen to stress that he does not want to give demonstrators carte blanche to continue using similar imagery.

"On the contrary. These are signs with very stong symbolic value and must therefore be used with the utmost care.

"In general, use of the swastika often signifies contempt for Jews," said Alhem.

While the freedom to demonstrate is a constitutional right in Sweden, it is limited by legal protections for certain particularly vulnerable groups.

But is there not a difference between demonstrators using the swastika to propagate an anti-Semitic message and using it to argue that the state of Israel and its military powers act like Nazi Germany? news agency TT asked the chief prosecutor..

"Yes, absolutely. Drawing these boundaries is a very delicate matter," said Alhem.

Context and intent must alway be taken into account when deciding whether to define an activity as a hate crime, he added. And Alhem does not think it was possible to justify such a classification in this instance.

The contentious banner was displayed at a demonstration opposing Israel's military activities in Lebanon.

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