Terror financing trial underway in Malmö

Security was tight at a Malmö courthouse as proceedings began on Monday to determine whether or not donations to the Swedish chapter of a Palestinian foundation were being used to support Hamas.

Terror financing trial underway in Malmö

All visitors were subject to a search as they entered the Malmö District Court for the trial of Khalid al-Yousef, the 44-year-old head of the al-Aqsa Spannmål, the Swedish branch of the al-Aqsa Foundation.

The foundation has collected more than 4 million kronor ($476,000) which it contends is used to help support Palestinian orphans and other humanitarian efforts. But prosecutors allege that al-Aqsa funds were sent to Hamas.

At the start of the trial, prosecutor Agnetha Hilding Qvarnström explained that everything related to the Palestinian question is politically explosive, referencing the recent escalation between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza.

“The case isn’t about taking a stance in the conflict, but about the fact that Hamas has been labeled a terrorist organization by the EU,” she said.

She then began reviewing the history of Hamas, its bylaws, and leadership, arguing that Hamas had established itself through violence and that the organization had “suicide bombers as a trademark”.

In her case, Hilding Qvarnström will attempt to show that al-Aqsa spannmål sent money to organizations with ties to Hamas and in so doing contributed to the deaths of innocent people in Israel.

“I assert that they have ties to Hamas and that’s what I intend to prove,” she told the Sydsvenskan newspaper.

As a part of her case, Hilding Qvarnström plans to call a witness from Interpal, a UK-based organization which directs aid to Palestinians.

The witness is expected to confirm that Interpal and al-Aqsa spannmål are both part of the Union of Good, an umbrella organization the US claims was created by Hamas leaders to facilitate financial transactions for Hamas.

Back in 2003, the United States requested that Swedish authorities freeze al-Aqsa Spannmål’s assets because it suspected the group was funneling money to Hamas.

The group’s accounts were frozen in 2006 and Al-Yousef was arrested on suspicions of preparing acts of terrorism and general destruction.

However, he was later released due to lack of evidence.

He now stands charged with crimes against Sweden’s terror financing and sanctions laws. If convicted for the first crime, al-Yousef faces a penalty of six months to six years in prison.

One of those in attendance at the trial said that she had sent thousands of kronor to al-Aqsa spannmål, and is very upset about the charges against al-Yousef.

“I’ve sent money to children who don’t have any parents, they have no place to live; they’re starving. I’ve sent it to the children, not to Hamas,” she told the TT news agency.


Swedish prosecutors upgrade Almedalen knife attack to terror crime

Prosecutors in Sweden are now treating the murder at the Almedalen political festival as a terror crime, with the country's Säpo security police taking over the investigation.

Swedish prosecutors upgrade Almedalen knife attack to terror crime

In a press release issued on Monday evening, the Swedish Prosecution Authority, said that the 32-year-old attacker, Theodor Engström, was now suspected of the crime of “terrorism through murder”, and also “preparation for a terror crime through preparation for murder”. 

Engström stabbed the psychiatrist Ing-Marie Wieselgren last Wednesday as she was on her way to moderate a seminar at the Almedalen political festival on the island of Gotland. 

Although he was a former member of the neo-Nazi Nordic Resistance Movement, police said his motive seemed to be to protest against Sweden’s psychiatry services, who he felt had treated his own mental illness badly. 

The release gave no details as to why the 32-year-old was now being investigated for a more serious crime, but terror expert Magnus Ranstorp told the Expressen newspaper that the shift indicated that police had uncovered new evidence. 

READ ALSO: What do we now know about the Almedalen knife attack? 

“The new crime classification means that they’ve either found a political motive for the attack which meets the threshold for terrorism, and that might be a political motive for murdering Ing-Marie Wieselgren,” he said. “Or they might have discovered that he was scouting out a politician, or another target that could be considered political.” 

Engström’s defence lawyer said last week that his client, who he described as disturbed and incoherent, had spoken in police interrogations of having “a higher-up target”.