Sweden eyes new law banning Isis fighters

Sweden is considering drafting new legislation that would ban its nationals from fighting in armed conflicts for terrorist organization such as the Islamic State (Isis), the government said on Wednesday.

Sweden eyes new law banning Isis fighters
Iraqi security forces preparing to attack Isis fighters. Photo: AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed

“It is completely unacceptable that Swedish citizens are travelling to [join] IS, financing the organization, or fighting for it,” Justice Minister Morgan Johansson and Home Affairs Minister Anders Ygeman wrote in a joint article in the Dagens Nyheter newspaper.

The proposed ban would prohibit combat for terrorist organizations listed as such by the United Nations or European Union.

“We have a responsibility for what our citizens do both here at home and in other countries,” they wrote.

“People who live here and who have chosen to join IS can constitute a serious threat upon their return. Criminalization is of course not the only way of preventing this, but it is an important part of anti-terrorism measures,” they said.

Johansson told reporters at a press conference that he had commissioned a report on the possibility of introducing such legislation, which was to be submitted to the government in June 2016.

In a bid to stem the flow of foreign jihadists, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution last year requiring member states to adopt laws making it illegal to travel or make plans to travel to a country to join jihadist groups, or to collect funds for recruitment.

Johansson said Sweden hoped to present a separate bill to parliament in a few months that would meet the UN demands.

A government-commissioned report has proposed a maximum two-year prison sentence for those crimes.

READ ALSO: Why Swedish girls are joining Isis

In April, Säpo told The Local there was “very little” it could do to stop people travelling to Syria to join al-Qaeda inspired groups, as EU officials estimated up to 6,000 people from across Europe have now fought in the war-torn nation.

It confirmed that at least 150 Swedish residents were known to have been to Syria or Iraq to fight for Isis or other extremist groups, with intelligence suggesting that at least 35 had died in the process.
Days later, Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad told Sweden’s tabloid newspaper Expressen that he believed some of “the most dangerous leaders of Daesh and Isis in our region are Scandinavian”.
More than 215,000 people have been killed in Syria's four-year war, which is increasingly dominated by jihadist groups. The fighting started after pro-democracy protests against President Assad's government became violent and the country slid into civil war.


Swedish prosecutors upgrade Almedalen knife attack to terror crime

Prosecutors in Sweden are now treating the murder at the Almedalen political festival as a terror crime, with the country's Säpo security police taking over the investigation.

Swedish prosecutors upgrade Almedalen knife attack to terror crime

In a press release issued on Monday evening, the Swedish Prosecution Authority, said that the 32-year-old attacker, Theodor Engström, was now suspected of the crime of “terrorism through murder”, and also “preparation for a terror crime through preparation for murder”. 

Engström stabbed the psychiatrist Ing-Marie Wieselgren last Wednesday as she was on her way to moderate a seminar at the Almedalen political festival on the island of Gotland. 

Although he was a former member of the neo-Nazi Nordic Resistance Movement, police said his motive seemed to be to protest against Sweden’s psychiatry services, who he felt had treated his own mental illness badly. 

The release gave no details as to why the 32-year-old was now being investigated for a more serious crime, but terror expert Magnus Ranstorp told the Expressen newspaper that the shift indicated that police had uncovered new evidence. 

READ ALSO: What do we now know about the Almedalen knife attack? 

“The new crime classification means that they’ve either found a political motive for the attack which meets the threshold for terrorism, and that might be a political motive for murdering Ing-Marie Wieselgren,” he said. “Or they might have discovered that he was scouting out a politician, or another target that could be considered political.” 

Engström’s defence lawyer said last week that his client, who he described as disturbed and incoherent, had spoken in police interrogations of having “a higher-up target”.