According to the former foreign minister, Göran Persson’s memory of the events that led to her resignation is flawed.
The parliamentary Constitutional Committee (konstitutionsutskott) is currently dealing with two cases concerning the former foreign minister. Both complaints were made after it was revealed that the foreign ministry had been in contact with Levonline, the company that hosted the far right Sweden Democrats’ online newspaper.
The party’s website had published controversial caricatures of the prophet Muhammad and had launched a competition to attract more images of a similar nature.
It was a member of Freivalds’ staff, Stefan Amér, who first made contact with Levonline at the beginning of 2006. The Sweden Democrats’ website was subsequently shut down by the hosting company.
The Constitutional Committee is now trying to establish the levels of involvement of both Freivalds and the foreign ministry.
When the issue first came to light, Freivalds gave the impression that she knew nothing about it. She explained to the constitutional committee that she had first denied the allegations because was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of questions that came her way.
Göran Persson initially criticized Amér while defending his foreign minister. But in the recent documentary of his time as prime minister, Persson claimed that he first became aware of Freivalds’ involvement after reading a foreign ministry memo in March last year.
“It is absolutely not the case that the prime minister got the information from the memo. I spoke with him long before the memo was written,” Freivalds told the Constitutional Committee.
“The prime minister had already spoken out on the basis of information in the media. After that I made him aware of what had really happened,” she added.
So what really had happened? According to Freivalds, she explained very clearly to Amér how Levonline should be approached. She took particular care to stress the rules concerning freedom of expression.
“He was to ask if they knew about the competition and whether they wanted information about the foreign policy aspects. He was not to give them any information if they didn’t want it,” said Freivalds.
The political situation was tense after Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten had published a series of caricatures of Muhammad. Some of the rage directed at Denmark had begun to spill over to Swedish companies and embassies.
The revelation that Laila Freivalds had known about and sanctioned the foreign ministry contact with Levonline eventually led to her resignation on March 21st last year.