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AFGHANISTAN

Pakistan to free Swede held in terror probe

The 19-year-old Safia Benaouda and her two-year-old son, who have been imprisoned in Pakistan since August, are to be released “shortly”, according to the Swedish foreign ministry.

Two other Swedes who were arrested at the same time as Benaouda, her 28-year-old boyfriend, Munir Awad, and Mehdi Gezhali, a Swedish national once imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, are not going to released, however, said foreign ministry spokesperson Anders Jörle to the TT news agency.

It remains unclear when the remaining two Swedes, who have been the subject of a terror investigation, may be released.

Pakistan’s Minister of the Interior Rehman Malik announced the impending release of Benaouda and her son when he met with Sweden’s ambassador in Islamabad, Ulrika Sundberg.

There have been several previous reports that Benaouda had been released or was about to be released, but Wednesday’s news is the first time the information has been confirmed by both Swedish and Pakistani officials.

Malik, who is in charge of Pakistan’s police force, said on Tuesday that he would receive a report about the detained Swedes on Wednesday, at which time he would made a decision about their fate as soon as possible.

The Swedes have been detained since August 28th when they were arrested in northern Pakistan, along with seven Turks, an Iranian, a Russian, and one Pakistani, according the police.

The police reported that the group was arrested in a prohibited area near a nuclear power facility.

Police suspect the group was on its way to rendezvous with representatives from the Taliban in southern Waziristan, long considered a Taliban stronghold.

One of the Swedes claimed the group was in fact on its way to a meeting with a Muslim revivalist movement in the city of Lahore.

It took until September 16th for Swedish authorities to receive formal confirmation that the Swedes had in fact been arrested.

According to foreign ministry spokesperson Anders Jörle, personnel from Sweden’s embassy in Pakistan were able to meet the four Swedish detainees on one occasion.

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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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