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ISRAEL

Migration Board pays off pro-Israel employee

Sweden's Migration Board has elected to pay over a million kronor in compensation to a demoted employee who maintained a pro-Israeli blog instead of following a court order to reinstate him.

Migration Board pays off pro-Israel employee

A ruling handed down by the district court in Mölndal in western Sweden on November 11th found in favour of 51-year-old employee Lennart Eriksson. The court ruled that the demotion was tantamount to having Eriksson fired without cause, and therefore violated Swedish employment law.

Eriksson said at the time that he was looking forward to getting back to work.

But in a reply to Eriksson’s lawyers dated December 19th the Migration Board has stated that it does not intend to follow the court order and will instead pay 1,203,200 kronor ($155,000) in compensation to Eriksson – the equivalent of 32 months salary. The board writes that the sum is in accordance with Swedish employment law.

“With this payment all dealings between the Migration Board and Eriksson will be settled. The Migration Board rejects all other demands made to date or in the future.”

The sum will be paid to Eriksson on January 12th 2009.

Lennart Eriksson has responded on his blog by arguing that he is not interested in the board’s “Judas money” and instead wants the board to follow the court ruling and reinstate him.

“I want the Migration Board to be a democratic authority. An authority where the ‘justice-seeking general public’ can expect fair and just treatment.”

The case dates back to February when Eriksson decided to sue his employer when he returned from a year’s sabbatical to find that he had been demoted from his job as the head of an asylum assessment unit, a position he had held for six years.

Ericsson was from the outset suspicious of the grounds on which the Migration Board had justified the move, believing that it had to do with a new supervisor’s disapproval of a pro-Israeli blog Eriksson maintains in his spare time.

“I want to defend freedom and democracy. I try to be humble and just. Therefore I must – as every good democrat must – defend Israel,” Eriksson wrote on his blog Sapere aude!

The case sparked more controversy when Migration Board lawyer Staffan Opitz criticized Eriksson during the trial for writing in his blog that Hamas-founder Ahmed Yassin was a terrorist, rather than a “Palestinian freedom fighter”, despite the fact that the Swedish government considered Hamas a terrorist organization.

“It’s quite remarkable, and that probably gets to the heart of matter. If the Migration Board has managers that believe that, I can understand that they don’t like me,” Eriksson said.

The court left aside the question of whether the move to demote him constituted a violation of his freedom of speech, addressing only whether the board was right to do so according to employment law.

The Local tried without success to contact the Migration Board for a comment on the compensation payment.

ISRAEL

Israel intercepts Swedish Gaza-bound activist boat

The Israeli navy intercepted a Swedish-flagged activist boat bent on breaching its more than decade-long blockade of Gaza, the second in less than a week, the military said on Saturday.

Israel intercepts Swedish Gaza-bound activist boat
Photo: TT

“The ship was monitored and was intercepted in accordance with international law,” the military said in a statement, before the vessel, named Freedom for Gaza and carrying 12 people, was taken to the Israeli port of Ashdod.

“The (military) clarified to the ship’s passengers that they are violating the legal naval blockade and that any humanitarian merchandise can be transferred to Gaza through the Port of Ashdod,” the statement said.

The people on board were taken for “further inquiry.”

The organisers of the flotilla said the boat, which was carrying medical supplies, was intercepted in international waters.

“The demands of Ship to Gaza are that the ship with its crew and cargo will be returned to the site of the boarding, and that they will be allowed to go in peace through international and Palestinian waters in accordance to international law,” they said in a statement.

“This is a demand that the eleven years-long illegal and destructive blockade on Gaza will be lifted at last.”

Freedom was the second boat of the “Freedom Flotilla” to be intercepted en route to “break the blockade” on Gaza, organisers said.

Four boats left from Scandinavia in mid-May and stopped in some 28 ports along the way, with two remaining behind after a recent stop in the Italian port of Palermo.

On Sunday, the Israeli navy intercepted a Norwegian-flagged activist boat that was part of the flotilla.

Israel has fought three wars with Palestinian militants in Gaza since 2008 and says the blockade is necessary to keep them from obtaining weapons or materials that could be used for military purposes.

UN officials have called for the blockade to be lifted, citing deteriorating humanitarian conditions in the Palestinian enclave run by Islamist movement Hamas where 80 percent of the two million population are dependent on aid.

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