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‘Swedes did not commit crime against America’

Mystery enshrouds the trial against two Swedish citizens charged with a series of terror crimes in a New York court, with no connections established between the alleged crimes and the United States.

'Swedes did not commit crime against America'

The two Swedes, aged 27 and 29, appeared in a federal court in Brooklyn, New York on Friday on charges that they had trained and fought with Somali group al-Shabaab.

It is not clear why the case is being brought in the United States. The FBI claims they are “real terrorists”.

The 29-year-old’s lawyer said that the defendants have not committed any crimes against America.

“American authorities believe that al-Shabaab, which has been designated as terrorists by the United States, propagates its activities on the internet and therefore ‘affects American foreign trade’. In that case more or less anything falls within American jurisdiction,” lawyer Ephraim Savitt told the TT news agency.

He confirmed that the Swedes were recruited by al-Shabaab but claims that they were on the run from the militant organization at the time of their arrest in Djibouti last summer.

According to the New York Times, the two Swedes and a 23-year-old man who was controversially stripped of his British citizenship this year were on their way to Yemen.

The men were extradited to the United States after a series of interrogations by FBI and others.

According to Savitt, the Swedish Foreign Ministry was notified already at the time of the arrest in Djibouti.

“But I am not aware of any specific efforts made by Swedish authorities,” he said.

Representatives of the Swedish Consulate in New York have visited the Swedes on at least one occasion.

Both are of Somali origin and hold Swedish citizenship.

“I can’t go into any detail about our conversation or what they asked for,” said Charlotta Ozaki Macias, a Swedish Foreign Ministry spokeswoman.

The men appeared in the Brooklyn court together with the 23-year-old Brit. They were aided by a Swedish interpreter.

If found guilty, they could face up to 30 years in prison.

According to Over Bring, Professor Emeritus in public international law, countries can charge individuals who have committed crimes abroad if they are believed to jeopardize national interests.

“It is a question of evidence, how concrete this threat against US security is and if it is a credible argument,” Bring told TT.

“In today’s climate, I can’t help but suspect that this would work in an US court.”

The men are accused of participating in weapons and explosives training with al-Shabaab during a four-year period beginning in 2008.

Court documents show no connection between the alleged crimes and the United States, the New York Times reported.

TT/The Local/nr Follow The Local on Twitter

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UN

Sweden to host UN Yemen talks

The United Nations intends to convene peace talks on Yemen soon after receiving firm assurances from the parties that they will attend negotiations in Sweden, the UN envoy said Friday.

Sweden to host UN Yemen talks
Yemen's Deputy UN ambassador Marwan Ali Noman Al-Dobhany during a meeting last month of the United Nations Security Council on Yemen at UN headquarters. Photo: AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews/TT

The Saudi-backed government and the Huthi rebels have shown a “renewed commitment” to work on a political solution to end a war that has driven millions to the brink of famine, Martin Griffiths told the Security Council.

“With this in mind, I intend to reconvene the parties shortly and to do so in Sweden,” he said. “I believe we are close to resolving issues to make this happen.”

“I have received firm assurances from the leadership of the Yemeni parties … that they are committed to attending these consultations. I believe they are genuine.”

Griffiths plans to travel to the rebel-held capital of Sanaa next week to finalize arrangements and offered to travel with the Huthi delegation to Sweden “if that's what is needed.”

The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen has agreed to “logistical arrangements” to pave the way for talks including medical evacuations out of Sanaa, he added.

Griffiths announced he was close to reaching a deal on an exchange of prisoners and detainees, in a further confidence-building measure ahead of planned talks.

The United Nations had announced talks in Geneva in September that never materialized after the Huthis put forward last-minute demands.

The Saudi-led coalition has been waging a war in Yemen since March 2015 to push back the Iran-backed Huthis and restore to power Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, whose government is recognized by the United Nations.

Pressure to end the Saudi-led military campaign has grown following the killing by Saudi agents of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which sparked global outrage.

Back from a visit to Yemen, the head of the UN World Food Programme warned that the country faces a full-blown famine in about six months because of the economic collapse from the war.

“What I have seen in Yemen this week is the stuff of nightmares, of horror, of deprivation, of misery,” David Beasley told the council. “Children are already dying.”

Eight million people are affected by severe food shortages, according to UN officials, who warn that up to 14 million — or half of Yemen's population — are at risk of famine.

“This is a crucial moment for Yemen,” Grffiths said of the talks in Sweden, warning that a flareup of fighting on the ground could derail the peace effort. No date for the talks was announced.

READ ALSO: Sweden calls on UN to halt offensive on Yemen port

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