‘Anti-Semitic’ motive suspected in arson attack on politician’s home

A Jewish rights group has said that a fire affecting a politician's house in southern Sweden was likely a deliberate "anti-Semitic attack" and followed threats and harassment of local public figures with a Jewish background.

'Anti-Semitic' motive suspected in arson attack on politician's home
Emergency services at the scene of the fire early on Tuesday morning. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Police were called to a fire at a private property in Lund, owned by a local politician, shortly after 2am on Tuesday morning. Police later said that several people in the same row of terraced homes had been evacuated but no one had been injured in the fire.

The Jewish Community of Malmö chairman Fredrik Sieradzki told The Local that the property owner had previously received anti-Semitic threats.

“This person has been threatened and harassed earlier this year, and been given messages that were clearly anti-Semitic. We had already been helping her with these threats, and our suspicion is very strong that it's an anti-Semitic attack. Police also see this as an arson,” Sieradzki said. 

The organization called the fire “an attack on Swedish democracy” and said that it had a “strong suspicion” that there was an anti-Semitic motive in a statement released on Wednesday.

It is the second apparent arson attack against a Jewish public figure living in Lund this year.

“Earlier this year another person with a Jewish background, who has been active in different Jewish venues, had a similar thing happen to him,” said Sieradzki. In that case, he said the victim had not received written threats but experienced other forms of harassment, including having feces smeared on his property and a flamethrower attack on his home. 

The chairman said that the organization had no further information about the possible identity of the suspect. The Local has contacted police in Lund for further comment but had not received a response at the time of publication.

Sweden and the Skåne region has struggled to combat anti-Semitism for a number of years. In 2010 the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, which represents Jewish interests abroad, issued a travel warning for Malmö urging “extreme caution”, before saying in 2015 that “virtually nothing has changed” since.

In December last year, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven said the country had an “anti-Semitism problem” after a weekend which saw anti-Semitic chants and violence in multiple locations across Sweden.

LONG READ: Breaking down Sweden's anti-Semitism problem

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Attacker ‘severely disturbed’ during stabbing at Swedish political festival

Theodor Engström, the 33-year-old man who stabbed psychiatrist Ing-Marie Wieselgren to death at the Almedalen political festival in July, was seriously psychiatrically disturbed at the time of his attack, forensic psychiatrists have ruled.

Attacker 'severely disturbed' during stabbing at Swedish political festival

According to the Hela Gotland newspaper the Swedish National Board of Forensic Medicine has ruled that the man was so disturbed at the time of his attack he had lost the ability to understand the consequences of his actions, and has as a result recommended that he be given psychiatric treatment rather than a prison term.

The agency said that Engström had still been disturbed at the time he was given psychiatric assessment, and warned that there was a risk that Engström would commit further criminal acts. 

“This is a question which has relevance at a future stage,” said prosecutor Henrik Olin. “It means he cannot be sentenced to jail, but will instead receive psychiatric care. But it is not going to change how the investigation is carried out.” 

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

Engström stabbed Wieselgren, who worked as psychiatric coordinator for the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions, as she was on the way to take part on a discussion at the Almedalen political festival. She died in hospital later that day. 

Engström has admitted to carrying out the attack, telling police that he intended to make a protest against the state of psychiatric healthcare in Sweden.