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AFGHANISTAN

Military head rejects friendly fire claims

Sweden's top military commander disputed reports that two Swedish officers who died last year in Afghanistan were killed by friendly fire, saying he's ready to let the fallen soldiers' families look at classified reports about the incident.

Military head rejects friendly fire claims

Supreme Commander Sverker Göranson wants the families of Gunnar Andersson and Johan Palmlöf to be able to see parts of the classified reports about the soldiers’ deaths.

He said that Sweden’s TV4 was wrong in a report earlier this week claiming that Swedish bullets had likely killed the two officers.

“The claims which TV4 has made are wrong and I can back that up. It’s not possible to ascertain which caliber it was that killed the soldiers,” Göransson told TV4 on Saturday, citing “the best ballistics experts” in Sweden.

The forensic investigation that has been carried out is as close to the truth as one can get, according to Görnasson.

“The best experts we have in the country have concluded that it’s not possible to say with certainty which caliber killed our soldiers,” he told the TT news agency.

“It’s dangerous of TV4 to speculate about certain parts. You can’t just read an autopsy report and make conclusions; rather, you have to put together everything in the investigation and that’s what the forensic investigation has done,” he said.

“My assessment is that we’ve come as close to the truth as we can.”

The most important thing right now is to provide the dead soldiers’ families with as much information as possible – a thorough description of the chain of events, according to Göransson.

But the families will likely never know with certainty if the officers were killed by Swedish bullets or not.

“If I could give them the 100 percent truth, I’d gladly do so. Nor I nor the forensic experts can do that, but we’ve come very close to the truth,” he said.

Göransson will now allow the families to see parts of the classified report about the Swedish soldiers’ deaths, according to the Expressen newspaper.

“What’s come up now is more concern among the families. Does what the Armed Forces said earlier still hold? Yes, it does, I say. But because TV4 then said that I’ve put forward untruths, I’ll take one more opportunity,” Göransson told TT.

Sonny Björk, a forensic investigator who participated in the investigation, has also offered to meet with the families of Andersson and Palmlöf.

“I asked him today if would be willing to meet the families and he right away said yes. The relatives need to avoid living with these speculations that have come up,” said Göransson.

While Björk refused to answer questions from TT, he told Expressen that “no circumstances” support the theory that the soldiers were killed by friendly fire.

He explained that all proven science shows that bullet wounds can never be used as a basis for determining the caliber of bullet that caused the wound.

While it’s nevertheless impossible to rule out that Andersson and Palmlöv were accidentally killed by fellow Swedish soldiers, the troops on the ground at the time of the incident have nothing to apologise for, according to Göransson.

“The soldiers did the right thing. They protected their own and their comrades lives with armed force. In the chaos which ensues in a battle in a very small space, it can also be a case of friendly fire, not consciously, but as a consequence of the difficult conditions,” 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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