Muslim Council head ‘clueless’ over terror plot

The head of the Muslim Council of Sweden has said she had no idea that the man with whom her daughter has two children was suspected of plotting an attack on a Danish newspaper when he was arrested last month.

Muslim Council head 'clueless' over terror plot

In late December, Munir Awad, a 29-year-old Swede born in Lebanon, is currently detained — along with three other men, including two Swedish citizens — on suspicion of planning a December attack on the Jyllands-Posten daily which had published caricatures of the prophet Muhammad.

Awad, who has been arrested abroad under suspicious circumstances twice before, has two children with the daughter of Helena Benaouda, who heads the Muslim Council of Sweden.

In an interview with the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper, Benaouda said she first learned of Awad’s arrest when she received a call from a journalist.

“I asked my daughter and when we looked for him, he wasn’t anywhere to be found,” Benaouda told the newspaper.

She said that if the suspicions against Awad prove to be true, it would be surprising that her daughter didn’t know anything.

Even though the couple don’t currently live together, they have frequent contact, she explained.

Benaouda, who has previously said she had never come across any Muslim extremists, said it was possible her daughter did not know of the plot.

But she added she should have been suspicious about her son-in-law’s plans.

“Safia says ‘I don’t get it and I don’t know what he is up to’. And I should have known myself. How is it possible to hide such things to those close to you?,” she told the paper.

Awad had also shared a Stockholm-area flat with one of two Swedes of Somali origin who were sent to jail in December for “planning terrorist crimes” in Somalia.

When Awad’s former flatmate was arrested in June, Benaouda told her son-in-law “that he shouldn’t mix with people who get arrested. But I didn’t say more, because I don’t have such a close relationship to him”, she told DN.

At the same time, Benaouda added that extremists often keep their plans secret from relatives.

“Men who really are extremists mistrust society and vice-versa. And at the same time women become suspected by society because everyone thinks they know something,” she said.

Benaouda admitted as well that she was “completely clueless” about the trip Awad and her daughter took to Somalia in 2007, which her daughter had described at the time as a spontaneous side trip from the couple’s Christmas break trip to Dubai.

“I don’t understand myself why someone would want to travel to Somalia,” she said.

Awad has been imprisoned on two previous occasions, once in Ethiopia in 2007 and once in Pakistan in 2009. He also has unpaid debts registered with the Swedish Enforcement Agency (Kronofogden) because the Swedish foreign ministry paid for his trip home from Ethiopia following his release.

However, questions also remain as to how he paid for his trip home from Pakistan.

“I don’t have any insight into their finances. But I know that my daughter doesn’t have any money. She said that Munir paid,” said Benaouda.

Benaouda said she had received threats and not publicly spoken about her son-in-law’s arrest to take the time to deal with the family crisis.

She condemned all forms of extremism in Islam, including Sweden’s first suicide attack, carried out in December by an Iraqi-born Swede who killed only himself after sending a message saying he was acting in the name of Islam.

“There are no holy wars in Islam,” Benaouda said.

“For me, the Stockholm suicide bomber is a criminal. I distance myself from all Islamic extremism. The use of violence is always unacceptable.”


Swedish politician condemns Denmark’s ‘shit sandwich’ sewage plan

Copenhagen's water utility has been asked to postpone a plan to dump 290,000 cubic meters of untreated raw sewage into the Øresund Strait in the face of outrage from citizens and politicians in both Sweden and Denmark.

Swedish politician condemns Denmark's 'shit sandwich' sewage plan
Swimmers taking part in the Øresund Challenge back in 2011. Photo: Dennis Lehmann/Ritzau Scanpix
After a meeting on Monday afternoon, Ninna Hedeager Olsen, Copenhagen's environmental mayor, said she had asked civil servants to ask Hofor postpone the release until the autumn. 
“There has been an opportunity for Hofor to postpone the test work they will be doing until October,” she told state broadcaster DR. “That is why I have asked the administration to demand it.” 
Politicians in both Denmark and Sweden were up in arms on Sunday when details of the plan became known, forcing the utility to first postpone the release by 24 hours, and now postpone it further. 
Niels Paarup-Petersen, a member of parliament for Sweden's Centre Party, told The Local that the plan was just the latest in a long list of insults Denmark had thrown at its Scandinavian neighbour. 
“We’ve been served shit sandwich after shit sandwich over the last couple of years, but we've never been served so much shit in one go as this,” he said.  
Jacob Næsager, a city politician with Denmark's Conservative party, said that it was astonishing that the plan had been approved. 
“Many people want to swim in the Øresund, and I think it is extremely disgusting that people literally have to swim in other people's shit,” he said. 
Finn Rudaizky, a city politician for the Danish People's Party on the city's environment committee, called the plan “completely crazy”.
After Olsen announced the decision to postpone the plan, Morten Østergaard leader of Denmark's Social Liberal party congratulated those who had spotted it and launched a protest. 
“Good God, that was hanging by a thread, but hats off for the action,” he said. “'Shit good', as Niels Paarup from our sister party wrote.” 

Paarup-Petersen told The Local that he recognised that the utility had to empty the sewer to allow construction to go ahead at Svanemølleholmen in Nordhavn.
But he said there was no need to dump so much sewage in one go right at the start of the summer swimming season.  
“They can spread it out over a longer period, they can do it in a better season when people won't be swimming and there might be better currents,” he said. “It would also be possible to plan it a bit better so it will be released over more days.” 
He said he planned to work together with the Danish Social Liberal party to put in place greater environmental protections around the Øresund. 
“In the long term we have to find solutions, because there are solutions that can mean that the Øresund no longer needs to be a sewer,” he said. 
In a memo to the mayor issued on Monday, city civil servants said that they could not withdraw the permit issued to Hofor, as it had been drawn up in accordance with the correct procedures. 
Hedeager Olsen said she would now launch ask a team of  external experts in law and the environment to investigate why the city's civil servants believed it was right to authorise the discharge. 
“When the administration today concludes in a note that they believe the case management has been correct, and at the same time you hear environmental professors and others say that it is not, it is important to get the case investigated at a fundamental level,” she told DR.