Swedish men charged with ‘terrorist murders’

Swedish men charged with 'terrorist murders'
Isis fighters in Syria, not related to the story. Photo: AP
Two men from the western Sweden city of Gothenburg have been charged with terrorist offences, including murder, that are alleged to have taken place in 2013.

According to the indictment, the men, who are 30 and 32 years old, are suspected of murdering two men by cutting their throats. The alleged crimes took place in an industrial area north of the Syrian city of Aleppo.

A letter from the chief prosecutor, Agnetha Hilding Qvarnström, explains that there is “very convincing evidence” that the men committed these murders. The evidence includes extensive photography of the crime, material which suggests that the men “expressed joy at their actions”.

“The act was intended to harm the state of Syria and terrify the population, hence the charge of terrorist offences. The challenge is to fully elucidate whether these men were part of an armed group and acted within the framework of the armed conflict or not,” said Hilding Qvarnström. 

The prosecution intends to clarify whether the men were fighting on behalf of the Isis extremist Islamist sect which carried out the attacks in Paris which killed 130 people 10 days ago.

The men were arrested in July in Gothenburg. The 30-year-old has been detained in custody since then, while the 32-year-old, who is wheelchair bound, was forbidden to leave Gothenburg.

In addition, another Gothenburg resident, a 27-year-old man is wanted for complicity in terrorist crimes. He is believed to be in Syria.

The court's chief judge Ralf Larsson has requested tighter security in the courtroom when the trial begins on Thursday.

“We have two individuals who are supposedly part of Isis who will be on trial. (…) There is naturally a risk and threat scenario,” he told regional daily GT.

According to Swedish integration police chief, Ulf Boström, Gothenburg is, per capita, the European city from which most people have joined Islamic extremist groups.

Previous statistics from the Swedish security service, Säpo, suggest that just over 300 Swedish nationals have left the country to travel to fight with Islamic extremist groups in Syria and Iraq.

This case is unusual because Sweden has not before prosecuted alleged returning jihadis, an approach which has angered Boström. 

“It is incomprehensible. Here we have the names and social security numbers of people who travel to Syria to fight and we know about it. Some come home and when they do, they can get health care and help, and then go right back down there again. Sweden is one of the few countries, if not the only one, where it is possible to travel in and out like this.”

Sweden's government is considering drafting new legislation that would ban its nationals from fighting in armed conflicts for terrorist organizations such as Isis.