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NATO’s Bid Prompts Swedish Parliament to Enact Stricter Anti-Terrorism Law

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Swedish lawmakers have passed a bill tightening the country’s anti-terrorism laws, in a bid by Stockholm to address Turkey’s security concerns over its NATO membership.

The review includes a prison sentence of up to four years for individuals convicted of participating in an extremist organization in a manner intended to promote, strengthen, or support the group. However, the sentence can be increased to eight years when the offense is considered serious.

The legislation allows a person who is identified as the leader of a terrorist organization to be sentenced to life in prison, which in Sweden generally means a minimum of 20-25 years.

The bill, which passed by 268 votes to 34 with 47 MPs absent, made it illegal to fund, recruit, or openly encourage a terrorist organization, as well as to travel abroad with the intention of joining such a group.

The revisions are due to take effect on June 1.

Introducing the legislation in February, Justice Minister Gunnar Stromer said it was “a significant expansion of scope compared to the current legislation”.

Strommer said actions such as handling equipment, organizing camps or meeting locations, cooking, or assuming transportation responsibility for specific terrorist organizations could be considered offenses under the new law.

In November, the country amended its constitution to allow the bill to move forward, as it was deemed to violate Sweden’s freedom of association laws.

Sweden has adopted tougher anti-terror laws since 2017, when an Uzbek asylum-seeker who swore allegiance to the Islamic State group drove a truck down a busy Stockholm shopping street, killing five people.

Ankara ratified Finland’s membership in March, but Sweden’s bid remains stalled by provocative demonstrations by terror sympathizers and Islamophobic figures in Stockholm that have also heightened tensions between Stockholm and Ankara.

Turkey has also repeatedly expressed that it does not oppose NATO expansion but criticizes Stockholm for failing to take action against elements that pose a security threat to Ankara.

Sweden’s centre-right government has taken a harder line not only towards the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), but also towards its Syrian wing, the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and its so-called political offshoot, the Democratic Union Party. The PKK has been designated a terrorist group by the United States, the European Union, and others.

Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billström said that there are close links between the PKK and the People’s Protection Units/PYD, and therefore Sweden will stay away from the Syrian groups so as not to harm relations with Turkey.

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