The Swedish justice on Tuesday April 4 canceled bans on demonstrations providing for the burning of the Koran. These aroused strong protests in the Muslim world, particularly in Turkey, and therefore compromised Swedish membership of NATO.
The Koran burned by Swedish-Danish anti-Muslim extremist Rasmus Paludan outside the Turkish embassy in Stockholm in early January sparked the ire of the Muslim world. It sparked calls for a boycott of Swedish products and embarrassed the government of the Scandinavian country.
Stockholm found itself stuck between the very liberal Swedish law on freedom of demonstration, and the emotion of the Muslim world and in particular of Turkey.
After the authorization given to Rasmus Paludan to organize an “anti-Islam” demonstration in early January, the police chose to ban other demonstrations planning to burn Korans, citing in particular security threats. “The burning of Korans has increased and could further increase the threat of attacks against Sweden and Swedish interests in the short term”justified the police.
Freedom of demonstration
The Supreme Court overturned these bans, which had been challenged in the kingdom’s courts, on the grounds that they would violate the constitutional freedom to demonstrate.
“The freedoms of assembly and demonstration are rights protected by the Constitution. There is therefore a limited possibility of refusing permission for a public meeting”, said the administrative court of appeal. The police “did not have sufficient basis for his decision” to ban two demonstrations during which this type of burning was planned in front of the Turkish and Iraqi embassies, she said.
“The Court does not consider that the threat presented by the police is sufficiently concrete and linked to the gathering in question”, judged the magistrate Eva-Lotta Hedin, in charge of the file. “The police decision was against the law”she concluded.
The case of the burned Korans is one of the reasons why Turkey decided to approve Finland’s entry into NATO, but not that of Sweden. Swedish membership still requires Turkish and Hungarian ratifications. Despite these blockages, the Nordic country still hopes to join NATO before its next summit in Vilnius in July.
Arrest of five suspects
This decision coincides with the arrest of five people suspected of preparing a “terrorist act” in Sweden in retaliation for the burning of the holy book of Muslims.
The anti-terrorist raid took place “in a coordinated way” Tuesday morning in Eskilstuna, Linköping and Strängnäs, three different towns in the center of the country, Swedish internal intelligence announced. The suspects are “considered to have international links with violent Islamist extremism”he says, adding that“an attack was not considered imminent”.