New law will not prevent people waving the flag of PKK
While Sweden is set off to tighten legislation covering membership of "terrorist organizations," and a new law will give authorities wider powers to detain and prosecute individuals who support such organizations, either through financing or other means, Swedish Justice Minister said on Thursday that the law would not affect the right to demonstrate nor prevent people waving the flag of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), designated a "terrorist group" by Ankara and Stockholm.
"To wave a flag as part of an expression of a differing opinion will not, in and of itself, be criminalized," minister Gunnar Strommer told reporters.
The minister stressed that until now "it has been hard to prosecute people unless their actions could be coupled to a specific terrorist act," and that the new law would cover all forms of participation.
Strommer said that the need for tighter laws has been highlighted by the attack in central Stockholm in 2017 in which a man mowed down pedestrians on a busy shopping street, killing five, and that the threat level has increased recently with Sweden seen as a legitimate target after the burning of the Koran by far-right Danish politician Rasmus Paludan in Stockholm last month.
Strommer's remarks came days after Turkish officials, including Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said that they will not ratify Sweden's NATO membership, following two incidents, in which first an effigy of Erdogan was hung from a lamp post by Kurdish protesters in Stockholm, then a copy of the Koran was torched in front of the Turkish embassy by Paludan.
Stockholm has for months been at odds with Ankara over its bid to join NATO, as Turkish officials complain that Sweden is not sticking to the promises it has undertaken in the context of a trilateral deal dated June 2022.
The deal, signed by Sweden, Finland and Turkey, holds that Turkey will give green light to the two Nordic countries' accession to NATO provided that they crackdown on Kurdish political activists allegedly affiliated with PKK and hand them over to Turkey, stop providing support for the Kurdish militia in Northern Syria and lift arms embargoes imposed on Turkey after its occupation of parts of Syria in 2019.
Photo credit: Roger Turesson