Man facing court under Sweden’s new terror laws

UPDATED: Sweden's new anti-terror laws are being tested for the first time. The trial of a 25-year-old man got under way on Thursday.

Man facing court under Sweden's new terror laws
Attunda District Court. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT

A 25-year-old man is on trial at Attunda District Court suspected of planning to travel to Syria to join the terror group al-Nusra Front, an al-Qaeda linked jihadist group which claims to be behind a series of bombings in the Middle Eastern country.

He was arrested at Stockhom's Arlanda airport on April 13th, returning from a day-trip to Turkey. According to the charges, he is suspected of intending to commit terror crimes in Syria.

He denies the charges, his defence team told the court on Thursday.

“He admits that he started a journey, but the purpose was not to commit terror crimes, but to take part in humanitarian work in Syria,” said his lawyer Henrik Olsson Lilja.

The prosecutor is expected to base the case on the man's Facebook conversations, text message history and internet search history.

A holster, a protective vest and other protective equipment seized by police officers are also likely to feature in the trial.

Sweden introduced new legislation on April 1st designed to crack down on jihadists. It toughens existing legislation by punishing those who travel abroad to join a terrorist group.

According to the new laws, those convicted of travelling to another country to seek training or to commit a terrorist act will be handed two-year sentences.

Sweden's intelligence service Säpo has previously identified around 300 people as having left Sweden since 2013 to join the Isis jihadist group in the Middle East. It believes 135 have since returned to Swedish soil and has said returning fighters are among the biggest threats to Sweden.


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”.