Turkey, Sweden and Finland signed a trilateral memorandum on 28 June on the first day of the NATO Madrid summit, expressing “unwavering solidarity and cooperation in the fight against terrorism, in all its forms and manifestations”.
In this memorandum, Turkey also requested that a new terrorism law be brought into force in Sweden.
“Sweden confirms that a new, tougher, Terrorist Offences Act enters into force on 1 July, and that the government is preparing further tightening of counter-terrorism legislation,” Article 6 of the memorandum states.
Wåg said this new law threatens democracy in Sweden.
Below is a translation of his article entitled “The proposal from the security police threatens democracy” that he penned for the Aftonbladet:
It is dangerous when bans target opinions instead of actions
The new Swedish terror law had barely come into force before security police chief Charlotte von Essen criticised the government for not acting forcefully enough.
It was not the Nazi knife murder of SKR’s psychiatric coordinator Ing-Marie Wieselgren in Almedalen that was the basis for the security police chief’s statement. What von Essen reacted to was the demonstrations in Sweden in support of the Kurdish liberation movements that are considered to be linked to the PKK.
It should be, the security police argued in its consultation response, a criminal offence to participate in demonstrations or events in support of terrorist organisations in this way.
The new terrorist act came into force on 1 July, and was up for discussion in connection with the tripartite agreement between Sweden, Turkey and Finland in connection with the NATO application.
It came just two years after the last sharpening of the terror laws. Then the crime of association with a terrorist organisation was added. Those who, for example, finance, or contribute premises or vehicles to a terrorist act should be able to be prosecuted for collusion.
Association does not mean the same thing as membership. It is still not illegal to be a member of a terrorist-listed organisation, to demonstrate for them, wear their symbols, write for their media channels, or hold meetings that discuss the organisations’ issues or ideology.
The Nordic resistance movement is not criminalised – unlike in Finland – even if the organisation’s members commit murder, plant bombs or manufacture weapons in their homes.
The law focuses on the acts, they restrict neither freedom of association nor freedom of expression. Only direct involvement in the act is criminal.
But now Säpo wants to criminalise demonstrations and events that, for example, involve wearing symbols of terrorist organisations. This shifts the focus from deeds to opinions, from terror to formation of opinion.
This shift is already occurring with the umbrella term “violence-affirming extremism” and is central to the Swedish authorities’ strategy. As a concept, violence-affirming does not refer to actual violence, but to broader environments where there are discussions about actions and activities that can disrupt infrastructure, the economy and the exercise of authority.
It is directed at social movements active in our society, whether they act through non-violence or militancy, civil disobedience or law-abiding protest.
With such legislation, we risk putting new tools in the hands of a national conservative bloc if they win government power. We know from other countries how they can be used. In both Russia and Turkey, laws against “terrorist sympathies” are used to crack down on any force seen as oppositional: 8 March demonstrations, Pride marches, anti-war demonstrations and critical journalists.
Turkey is already lobbying so that solidarity demonstrations with the Syrian Kurdish party PYD and the YPG and YPJ armies will be labeled as PKK support in Sweden as well.
Under President Donald Trump, voices were raised in the United States within the Republicans to classify Antifa and Black Lives Matter as terrorists. In the rhetoric of the Sweden Democrats, climate activists are already referred to as extremists and terrorists, and their blockades of roads and the fossil industry are seen as terrorist attacks on fundamental infrastructure.
With a closer look, it is clear how such terror laws can be used to restrict freedom of assembly and demonstrations, even in liberal democracies.
The police are using the ban on carrying PKK flags to crack down on the annual demonstration in memory of German Rosa Luxemburg, which brings together the entire broad left in Germany. Riot police break up the demonstration and block thousands from demonstrating to chase individual banners.
In Finland, the climate activists Extinction Rebellion’s fines have been frozen, because they were seen as financing criminal activities. In Britain, the ban on PKK flags is used as a reason for the police to enter Kurdish protest demonstrations against Turkey’s bombing of Rojava in Syria.
There is a limit when terror laws, which are supposed to protect against terror, turn into their opposite: they become terror that threatens to cripple our democratic rights. They become a threat to democracy, rather than the protection of democracy.