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AFGHANISTAN

Swedish soldiers killed by ‘Afghan police’

Military police are conducting an investigation into reports that the two Swedish military officers and their local interpreter killed on Sunday west of Mazar-e Sharif in Afghanistan were attacked by a police officer.

Swedish soldiers killed by 'Afghan police'
Captain Johan Palmlöv and Lieutenant Gunnar Andersson

The two Swedish soldiers, Johan Palmlöv and Gunnar Andersson, and their Afghan interpreter, Mohammad Shahab Ayouby, were part of the patrol which came under fire near a police station, 40 kilometres west of Mazar-e Sharif, near the village of Gurgi Tappeh.

Soldiers in the patrol have confirmed that their attacker was dressed in an Afghan police officer’s uniform.

“A military police investigation has been launched to clarify the circumstances. It is still too early to determine if it was a police officer or an attacker dressed in a police uniform,” said Gustaf Wallerfelt at the FS 18 contingent stationed in the area, in a Swedish military statement.

“The investigation is being conducted in close cooperation with the Afghan police.”

It has been confirmed that the two dead Swedish officers come from the Stockholm area and have been named as 28-year-old Captain Johan Palmlöv and 31-year-old Lieutenant Gunnar Andersson.

The third Swedish soldier, who sustained minor injuries in the attack, is also from the Stockholm area.

The Swedish soldiers were operating in an area where Swedish and Finnish peace keepers confiscated 70 kilogrammes of narcotics and a quantity of explosives earlier in the week.

According to news agency TT reporters in the area, villagers believe that the soldiers could have been attacked as an act of revenge from local Taliban.

The use of police and army uniforms is a common method applied by opponents to the presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan to carry out suicide attacks or to gain access to security zones.

The investigation into the identity of the attacker, who was killed in return fire, is likely to take time, the Swedish military have confirmed.

A commission of inquiry has been assembled in Stockholm and will be despatched to Mazar-e Sharif at the earliest opportunity to assist with inquiries.

Swedish forces have been operating in Afghanistan since 2002.

The 500-strong Swedish ISAF-led force (FS18) is based in Mazar-e Sharif, 400 kilometres northwest of Kabul.

ISAF is a NATO-led security and development mission in Afghanistan established by the United Nations Security Council in 2001. The base is home to Swedish and Finnish peacekeeping forces.

“There remains a belief that we can achieve our goal, if for no other reason everything would have been in vain,” Gustaf Wallerfelt said of the atmosphere among Swedish forces in Afghanistan.

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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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