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AFGHANISTAN

Troops ransack Afghan hospital: Swedish charity

A Swedish charity has claimed that foreign troops entered its hospital in Afghanistan, smashed doors and tied up staff and patients' relatives, violating agreements between aid workers and the military.

The Swedish Committee for Afghanistan (SCA) said troops entered the hospital in Shaniz, in Wardak province south of Kabul, late on Wednesday “without giving any reason or justification”.

“They searched all rooms, even bathrooms, male and female wards,” the SCA said in a statement on its website, quoting country director Anders Fange.

“Rooms that were locked were forcefully entered and the doors of the malnutrition ward and the ultrasound ward were broken by force to gain entry.

“Upon entering the hospital they tied up four employees and two family members of patients at the hospital. SCA staff as well as patients, even those in beds, were forced out of rooms (and) wards throughout the search,” it said.

Describing the incident as unacceptable, the SCA said the military action was “a clear violation of globally recognized humanitarian principles about the sanctity of health facilities and staff in areas of conflict”.

It said it also breached civil-military agreements between non-governmental organisations and the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which along with the US has more than 100,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan.

The incident lasted two hours, after which the troops “issued verbal orders” that any patient who might be an insurgent must be reported to coalition forces.

An ISAF spokesman said an investigation had been launched but no information would be available until it was completed.

The SCA has been operating in Afghanistan since the 1980s, working in 16 provinces mostly in the east, in education, health and disability.

News of the incident comes after a NATO air strike in the northern province of Kunduz early on Friday that officials have said killed or injured 90 people.

That incident reignited anger among ordinary Afghans about what can be heavy-handed tactics by foreign troops fighting a resurgent Taliban militia that have refined their tactics and are killing record numbers of international soliders.

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AFGHANISTAN

Swedish student to face trial after anti-deportation protest that stopped flight

The Swedish student who livestreamed her onboard protest against the deportation of an Afghan asylum seeker will go on trial on Monday.

Swedish student to face trial after anti-deportation protest that stopped flight
Elin Ersson. File photo: Björn Larsson Rosvall/TT

Elin Ersson will appear at Gothenburg District Court, charged with violating Sweden’s Aviation Act.

Ersson protested in July last year against the Swedish government's policy of deporting some rejected asylum seekers to Afghanistan by boarding an Istanbul-bound flight that carried an Afghan man who was to be returned home after being denied asylum.

With a ticket for the flight that was purchased by the activist group 'Sittstrejken i Göteborg', the activist boarded the aircraft and then refused to sit down until the Afghan man was let off. Flights are not allowed to take off until all passengers are safely in their seats.

Ersson livestreamed her protest on Facebook, where it was viewed over five million times.

Eventually, Ersson was told that the man would be let off the plane and she was also removed by airport security.

According to the prosecutor in the trial, which will take place Monday, Ersson acknowledges her actions in the incident but said her objections were based on her morals and argues that she did not act illegally as the plane was not in the air at the time of her protest.

“I believe that she is guilty of a crime which I can prove and which she will not admit. The court will therefore determine this,” prosecutor James von Reis told TT when charges were brought against the student.

In an interview with the news agency in July last year, Ersson was asked how she sees the view that her actions can be considered criminal.

“The key issue for me is that the man who was to be deported is human and deserves to live. In Sweden we do not have the death penalty, but deportation to a country which is at war can mean death,” she said.

The trial is expected to be completed within one day and Ersson’s defence has sent supplementary evidence to the court.

That consists of a legal statement by Dennis Martinsson, a lawyer in criminal law at Stockholm University. In the 13-page statement, Martinsson argues that the Aviation Act is phrased in a way which makes it questionable whether it is applicable to what Ersson did.

According to the legal expert, the relevant paragraph only applies to requests made by the aircraft’s commanding officer. Investigation of the incident found that Ersson was instructed to take her seat by “cabin crew on board”.

Further, the law states that criminal liability applies to passengers who do not comply with instructions “during a flight”, a description which Martinsson argues cannot be applied to an aircraft on the ground waiting to depart.

There is no precedent in interpretation of the law, he also writes according to TT’s summary.

The extent to which those arguments will affect the outcome of Monday’s case remains to be seen.

The penalty for violation of the Aviation Act is a fine or imprisonment for a maximum of six months.

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