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AFGHANISTAN

Liberals push for more Afghanistan troops

The Liberal Party (Folkpartiet) has argued that the Swedish contingent in Afghanistan is understaffed and wants the force to be strengthened by a further 100 soldiers.

Liberals push for more Afghanistan troops

“The force is understaffed,” Liberal Party defence spokesperson Allan Widman said to the Dagens Nyheter newspaper.

The Swedish parliament decided in the autumn to increase the force from 390 to 500 soldiers. When the mandate for the FS18 contingent expires in the autumn, the Liberal Party wants a larger force to replace them.

Allan Widman pointed out that a large part of the area that the Swedish forces are supposed to take responsibility for is almost never visited by any soldiers. 500 Swedish and 93 Finnish soldiers are tasked with securing an area the size of the Baltic island of Gotland.

The Liberal Party is part of the government coalition and as such supports the existing defence budget and the decision over how large an international force Sweden should maintain.

The Defence Minister Sten Tolgfors explained to the newspaper that an increase in the Afghanistan force is not currently planned.

“It is not currently on the cards. But it is the nature of international deployment to always adapt to the situation. That we did by increasing the force from 390 to 500 just before Christmas,” Tolgfors said.

Swedish forces have been encouraged to mix with the local population in a more informal manner. The practice of removing helmets and driving around in open jeeps has been criticized for exposing the troops to extra risk.

Tolgfors defended the practice, telling the newspaper that in the longer term it is safer.

“You can only win Afghanistan if you win over the civilians,” he said.

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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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