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CRIME

Man on trial over death threats sent to Swedish ministers

The trial of a 42-year-old man charged with having sent threatening letters to Swedish ministers and other high-profile figures starts today.

Man on trial over death threats sent to Swedish ministers
File photo of a letter box in Sweden. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

The man, from western Sweden, is also suspected of the attempted murder of four individuals in the UK who received a mail bomb he allegedly sent to bitcoin selling company Cryptopay in London last year. His computer showed he had searched for information on how to build explosives.

He goes on trial at Stockholm District Court today accused of having sent letters containing verbal death threats and powder – which later turned out to be harmless – to 26 people, including 21 cabinet ministers.

Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist, Social Affairs Minister Annika Strandhäll, Education Minister Gustav Fridolin and Justice and Interior Minister Morgan Johansson were among those who received the letters, sent to their home addresses, with the words “you will soon be dead”.

He was arrested at Stockholm's Arlanda Airport in May after arriving on a flight from Thailand.

“I argue that he intended to cause serious fear to those who received the letters. The crimes are aggravated because in each envelope there was a powder which appeared to be toxic and explosive,” prosecutor Eva Wintzell said in a statement earlier this month. “The threats to elected representatives are particularly serious because those are threats directed against democracy.”

Sweden is one of the world's most transparent nations, where tax information and home addresses can easily be accessed. Elected officials can often be seen out in public running errands and going about their daily lives, sometimes without security, although this is becoming less common for senior figures.

Sweden's former Foreign Minister Anna Lindh died in 2003 after she was stabbed in broad daylight at a Stockholm department store without a bodyguard present. And former Prime Minister Olof Palme was shot dead while walking home from a Stockholm cinema in 1986. His murder has not been solved.

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CRIME

Swedish Green leader: ‘Easter riots nothing to do with religion or ethnicity’

The riots that rocked Swedish cities over the Easter holidays were nothing to do with religion or ethnicity, but instead come down to class, the joint leader of Sweden's Green Party has told The Local in an interview.

Swedish Green leader: 'Easter riots nothing to do with religion or ethnicity'

Ahead of a visit to the school in Rosengård that was damaged in the rioting, Märta Stenevi said that neither the Danish extremist Rasmus Paludan, who provoked the riots by burning copies of the Koran, nor those who rioted, injuring 104 policemen, were ultimately motivated by religion. 

“His demonstration had nothing to do with religion or with Islam. It has everything to do with being a right extremist and trying to to raise a lot of conflict between groups in Sweden,” she said of Paludan’s protests. 

“On the other side, the police have now stated that there were a lot of connections to organised crime and gangs, who see this as an opportunity to raise hell within their communities.”

Riots broke out in the Swedish cities of Malmö, Stockholm, Norrköping, Linköping and Landskrona over the Easter holidays as a result of Paludan’s tour of the cities, which saw him burn multiple copies of the Koran, the holy book of Islam. 

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More than 100 police officers were injured in the riots, sparking debates about hate-crime legislation and about law and order. 

According to Stenevi, the real cause of the disorder is the way inequality has increased in Sweden in recent decades. 

“If you have big chasms between the rich people and poor people in a country, you will also have a social upheaval and social disturbance. This is well-documented all across the world,” she says. 
 
“What we have done for the past three decades in Sweden is to create a wider and wider gap between those who have a lot and those who have nothing.” 

 
The worst way of reacting to the riots, she argues, is that of Sweden’s right-wing parties. 
 
“You cannot do it by punishment, by adding to the sense of outsider status, you have to start working on actually including people, and that happens through old-fashioned things such as education, and a proper minimum income, to lift people out of their poverty, not to keep them there.”

This, she says, is “ridiculous”, when the long-term solution lies in doing what Sweden did to end extreme inequality at the start of the 20th century, when it created the socialist folkhem, or “people’s home”. 

“It’s easy to forget that 100 to 150 years ago, Sweden was a developing country, with a huge class of poor people with no education whatsoever. And we did this huge lift of a whole nation. And we can do this again,” she says. “But it needs resources, it needs political will.” 
 
 
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