Sweden’s parliament adopts tighter anti-terror law for NATO bid
Swedish lawmakers passed a bill tightening the country’s counterterrorism laws, in an attempt by Stockholm to address Türkiye’s security concerns about its NATO membership.
The revision includes a prison term of up to four years for individuals convicted of participating in an extremist organization in a way that is intended to promote, strengthen or support the group. However, the penalty can be increased to eight years when a crime is deemed serious.
The legislation allows for someone identified as a leader of a terror organization to receive a life sentence, which in Sweden generally means a minimum of 20-25 years.
The bill, which passed on a 268-34 vote with 47 lawmakers absent, made it illegal to finance, recruit for or publicly encourage a terrorist organization, as well as travel abroad with the intention of joining such a group.
The revisions are set to take effect June 1.
When presenting the legislation in February, Justice Minister Gunnar Strommer said it was a “considerable widening of the scope compared to current legislation.”
Actions such as handling equipment, organizing camps or locations for meetings, cooking, or being in charge of transport for designated terrorist organizations can be considered crimes under the new law, Strommer explained.
In November, the country amended its constitution to allow the bill to move forward, as it was deemed to infringe on Sweden’s freedom of association laws.
Sweden has been adopting tougher anti-terror laws since 2017, when an Uzbek asylum seeker who had sworn allegiance to the Daesh terrorist group drove a truck down a busy shopping street in Stockholm, killing five people.
Ankara ratified Finland’s membership in March, but Sweden’s bid is still hamstrung due to provocative demonstrations by terrorist sympathizers and Islamophobic figures in Stockholm that also sent tensions soaring between two Stockholm and Ankara.
Türkiye has also frequently voiced that it does not oppose NATO enlargement but criticizes Stockholm for failing to take action against elements posing a security threat to Ankara.
Sweden’s center-right government has taken a harder line not just toward the PKK terrorist group, but also toward its Syrian wing YPG and its so-called political branch, PYD. The PKK is designated as a terrorist group by the U.S., European Union and others.
Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billström has said there were close links between the PKK and the YPG/PYD, and Sweden would therefore “keep a distance” from Syrian groups in order not to harm relations with Türkiye.