Sweden pays damages to fired intern

Sweden's highest legal official has awarded damages to a member of the nationalist Sweden Democrat party who was relieved of his work experience duties at the Swedish Embassy in Israel after his party allegiances came to light.

Kent Ekeroth was taken on as an intern at the embassy in Israel in September 2006. In October of the same year staff at the embassy were made aware of the fact that Ekeroth was an active Sweden Democrat who had run for local election in Lund.

His work experience at the embassy was immediately terminated.

According to Chancellor of Justice Göran Lambertz, the decision to fire Ekeroth was unconstitutional.

“The decision was taken on the basis of the fact that he was a Sweden Democrat, which he had not said anything about. It was later argued that there were other reasons but none of them were sufficient to warrant terminating his employment,” Lambertz told news agency TT

Former Ambassador to Israel Robert Rydberg informed Lambertz that Ekeroth was asked to leave after writing in “a xenophobic and anti-Muslim manner” on his blog. This could “damage the embassy’s credibility,” said Rydberg.

But the main problem, according to Rydberg, was that Ekeroth wrote his blog entries during work hours.

In one instance he compared immigration with a HIV epidemic, said the embassy.

But Lambertz reiterated his belief that Ekeroth was in fact fired simply because he was a Sweden Democrat.

“If we get rid of employees with uncomfortable opinions it becomes very uncertain as to who will be allowed to stay. This is not up to an individual manager to decide. Freedom of expression is very much fundamental to our democracy and administration,” said Lambertz.

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs has been ordered to pay Ekeroth a total of 30,000 kronor ($4,800): 10,000 kronor for financial damages and a further 20,000 kronor for violating his rights.