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Bishop manhandled by Sweden Democrats

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Bishop manhandled by Sweden Democrats
16:02 CEST+02:00
Church of Sweden Bishop Lennart Koskinen was forcibly removed by Sweden Democrat (SD) security staff when the nationalist party held a meeting just metres from the church tent at Almedalen week on Gotland on Monday.

Koskinen, who is bishop for the diocese of Visby, was angered at the demonstration, which had been given police authorization, in front of the Church of Sweden's own tent at the annual political week on the Baltic Sea island.

"The Sweden Democrats, which represent an entirely different message from the Church of Sweden stand two metres in front of our tent so that we do not have the possibility to deliver our message. They have giant speakers so that the public might believe that it is we who stand for this xenophobic message, when in fact the opposite is true," Koskinen told news agency TT immediately after the incident.

Koskinen felt compelled to act just as SD party secretary Björn Söder had opened a debate with the Christian Democrat Rolf Tufvesson concerning culture and integration. Koskinen approached Söder, at which point several Sweden Democrats muscled the 69-year-old pastor away.

Security service police were swiftly on the scene and informed Koskinen that the party had in fact been granted permission to hold its meeting at the location. The bishop expressed surprise at the news.

"This undermines our democratic rights. It feels very strange that they are given more rights that the Church of Sweden," Lennart Koskinen said.

Sweden Democrat Björn Söder in return complained about Koskinen's incursion on the meeting.

"We have a licence to stand here. I think that is regrettable that one of the church's foremost representatives shows such poor judgement and is unable to respect the equal rights of all people to forward their opinions," Söder said to news agency TT.

Söder denied that the choice of location was taken as a direct provocation to the Church of Sweden.

"No, no. This is the location, as well as Donner Square, which has been allocated for political speeches, if you are not actually in Almedalen, where perhaps we will be next year," said Söder.

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