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Militant Islam Monitor > Articles > Swedish foreign minister forced to resign after illegally using security services to close website showing Muhammad cartoons

Swedish foreign minister forced to resign after illegally using security services to close website showing Muhammad cartoons

March 21, 2006

http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/national/1103AP_Sweden_Minister_Resigns.html

Swedish foreign minister resigns

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

STOCKHOLM, Sweden -- Sweden's foreign minister resigned Tuesday, accused of lying about shutting down a far-right Web site that solicited cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

Foreign Minister Laila Freivalds told a news conference she could not stay in the government in the "current situation." Prime Minister Goran Persson said Freivalds would be temporarily replaced by Deputy Prime Minister Bo Ringholm.

Freivalds has been criticized for her role in shutting down the Web site of a far-right party that was planning to publish caricatures of Muhammad like those that led to deadly protests by Muslims worldwide.

The site was closed Feb. 9 after a Foreign Ministry official contacted the Web hosting company, which critics said was an intrusion on the freedom of speech.

Freivalds had told Swedish media she did not order the ministry official to contact the company. A later report from the ministry said she was involved in the decision.

Feb.28,2006

http://www.ejpress.org/article/news/eastern_europe/6426#

The internet site of a far right Swedish political party, has been closed down by its web host after being contacted by officials from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the Swedish Security Services.

Levonline shut the homepage of the Sweden Democrats and its internet paper SD-Kuriren, which reproduced at least one of the Mohammed cartoons originally published by the Danish newspaper Jyllandsposten last autumn

An official from the Swedish Security Services, a public body with the task of preventing and detecting of offences against national security, told Swedish radio: "We have been working lately on this issue. This includes talking to various actors. With regards to the current threat we are seeing we are unable to give further comments."

No pressure

Minister of Foreign Affairs Laila Freivalds has denied that the Swedish government has exerted pressure on the web host. She told the media that the cartoons were "offensive to other peoples' religious beliefs" and admitted to the media that she was concerned that that these cartoons may damage Sweden.

In an official statement, Minister Freivalds said that she "strongly condemns the provocation by [the extreme right wing paper] SD-Kuriren."

"It is deplorable that a small group of extremists expose Swedish citizens and Swedish interests to clear danger. Considering the current inflamed atmosphere, I take a very serious view of this."

Media concern

Members of the media and the political opposition are now concerned to find out if the government has exerted pressure and infringed upon freedom of expression in Sweden to avoid being dragged further into the Mohammed cartoon controversy that is raging in the Moslem world.

On February 15, Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson expressed his disapproval of the Foreign Ministry official who had contacted the web host about the Mohammed cartoons. However, he asserted that the official had acted on his own accord and his actions and the closing of the website had not been sanctioned by the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

The leader of the Liberal Party Lars Leijonborg has now referred the matter to the Constitutional Committee to investigate whether the government has broken the constitution for the freedom of the press.

Although Denmark and Norway, where the Mohammed cartons have been published, are the countries in Scandinavia whose citizens and embassies have been the main targets of Muslim violence, the Swedish government advises its citizens to avoid traveling to Syria, Lebanon, Gaza and the West Bank, where violent demonstrations have culminated in attacks on Swedish embassies and offices.




"..Swedish Foreign Minister Laila Freivalds decided to halt the Web site of the small nationalist party Sweden Democrats, which planned the Prophet cartoons contest," Abdul Razik Wabri, official of the Islamic League of Sweden, told IOL Friday, February 10.

The move was taken after talks Thursday, February 9, between the Swedish top diplomat and the political parties in the Scandinavian country, he added.

The Web site launched a competition for Prophet Muhammad cartoons on January 10.

One of the 40 contributions it had received had already been published on the site.

The drawing depicted Prophet Muhammad from the back holding up a mirror. The reflection of his face has the eyes barred over and the caption reads "Mohammedan self-censorship".

Additional Reporting By Radwa Hassan, IOL Stuff

STOCKHOLM, February 10, 2006 (IslamOnline.net & News Agencies) The Swedish government has acted swiftly to prevent what could have been another "cartoon war" when it canceled a contest planned by a Swedish right-wing party on cartoons of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him).

"Swedish Foreign Minister Laila Freivalds decided to halt the Web site of the small nationalist party Sweden Democrats, which planned the Prophet cartoons contest," Abdul Razik Wabri, official of the Islamic League of Sweden, told IOL Friday, February 10.

The move was taken after talks Thursday, February 9, between the Swedish top diplomat and the political parties in the Scandinavian country, he added.

The Web site launched a competition for Prophet Muhammad cartoons on January 10.

One of the 40 contributions it had received had already been published on the site.

The drawing depicted Prophet Muhammad from the back holding up a mirror. The reflection of his face has the eyes barred over and the caption reads "Mohammedan self-censorship".

Last September, Jyllands-Posten ran 12 cartoons of Prophet Muhammad including one wearing a bomb-shaped turban and another showing him as a knife-wielding nomad flanked by shrouded women.

Many European papers and magazines reprinted the drawings, considered blasphemous under Islam, triggering an outcry across the Muslim world and calls to boycott Danish products.

Provocative

Freivalds blamed the right-wing party, Sweden Democrats, a party too small to be represented in parliament, for provoking threats against the Swedish interests, Agecne France-Presse (AFP) reported.

"It is terrible that a small group of extremists are exposing Swedes and Swedish interests to obvious danger.

"In the current heated atmosphere I consider this very serious. This is a small group that does not have any support in our country," she said.

"I apologize for the fact that we in Sweden have individuals who are so ruthless that they consciously offend other people's religion," Freivalds added.

The Swedish official also hailed the responsible freedom of expression practiced by the Swedish press over the cartoon row.

"Our freedom of expression and the press requires taking responsibility, something Swedish media so far has done, and I would expect the same even of the Sweden Democrats," she told public radio, referring to the fact that no Swedish newspapers have republished the Danish caricatures.

Newspapers which have published the cartoons claim they were exercising their right to freedom of speech.

Support

File photo of the Islamic Center in the Swedish capital.

The Muslim activist, on his part, hailed the stance of the Swedish government, urging the Arab and Muslim countries to show support to Sweden over the issue.

He said that the Swedish government is expected to come under rebukes from the anti-Muslim groups on claims of freedom of expression.

On Friday, Freivalds also visited the headquarters of the Islamic League in Sweden and met with leaders of the Muslim minority in Sweden.

The top diplomat applauded the role played by the Muslim minority in closing ties between Sweden and the Muslim world.

The Muslim leaders, for their part, welcomed the stance of the Swedish government and press on the insulting drawings of Prophet Muhammad.

They also pledged to highlight the pro-Muslim Swedish stances in the Arab and Muslim mass media.

Muslims in Sweden are estimated at some 500,000, with 70% of them attending schools and universities.

Islam has become the second official religion in Sweden after Christianity, despite the fact that the Muslim community is a relatively new one, unlike that of other European countries such as France.

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