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Swedish extremists pose 'serious threat'

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11:10 CEST+02:00
Political extremists in Sweden are generally more violent than their counterparts in Denmark in Germany and Denmark, a new report shows.

The study, commissioned by the government and carried out jointly by the National Council on Crime Prevention (Brottsförebyggande rådet - Brå) and the Swedish security service Säpo, also found that groups on the right and the left in Sweden are equally prone to violence.

“Political violence is equally likely on both sides,” Säpo analyst Johan Olsson told Svergies Radio (SR).

“There is roughly as much politically motivated violence from autonomous groups [on the left] as in the white-power movement.”

He added, however, that groups on the right have more members with "experience in deadly violence and greater access to firearms and explosives".

While the size of Sweden's political extremist movements is roughly the same of those found in Germany or Denmark when measured on a per capita basis, the report found that left- and right-wing groups in Sweden are more prone to violence.

Members of the Swedish white power movement, for example, have a greater tendency to arm themselves, while left-wing extremists in Sweden are more clearly focused on systematically attacking elected officials.

According to the report, political violence is a phenomenon most likely to be carried out by young people.

Of cases brought to court, the median age of those who commit political violence in Sweden is 20-years-old and none have involved crimes committed by anyone over the age of 25.

The report on violent political extremism and anti-democratic groups on the far-right and far-left was commissioned by the government in order to shed light on the problem and devise appropriate measures to prevent young people from engaging in political violence.

In accepting the report on Monday, Sweden's Minister of Integration and Equality Nyamko Sabuni said it was time to recognize the detrimental effects of left-wing political violence.

“We have long distanced ourselves from the white power movement's activities and violence, not least due to historical experiences. But for just as long we've romanticized and downplayed the violence that left-wing groups have inflicted on society's representatives, calling it a youthful misunderstanding or freedom fighters who have gone too far,” she told SR.

Another sign of Swedes' differing views toward left- and right-wing violence is the difference in the number of programmes designed to help people leave extremist groups.

While there are a number of support groups for people interested in leaving neo-Nazi and other nationalistic networks on the far-right, there are few resources available to those looking to distance themselves from left-wing extremists.

“As far as I know there is no support for those who want to leave left-wing extremist movements and that's due in part to the fact that society hasn't treated this sort of extremism with the same seriousness as right-wing extremism,” said Robert Öhrell from Exit, a Stockholm-based organization which gives advice and support to people wishing to leave right-wing groups, to SR.

While the report shows that the actual number of people on the fringes of the right and the left who are engaged in violence is relatively small – about a hundred on each side – they have become increasingly violent.

Only a quarter of documented attacks are actually politically motivated, according to the study, with roughly an equal number of convictions for both sides in cases which make their way to a courtroom.

Despite their violent tendencies, neither groups on the right or the left have the desire or capacity to actually bring about a change in Sweden's political system.

“Even if these groups aren't currently a threat to our political system, they do pose a concrete threat to certain individuals. They are also a particular threat to political parties and a relatively dangerous threat to public order,” said Säpo director Anders Danielsson in a statement.

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