The Swedish government announced on Thursday that it will tighten its anti-terror laws to more broadly cover membership of a terrorist organisation.
The new law, which the government expects to take effect in June, would give authorities much wider power to arrest and charge individuals who support organisations that are deemed terrorist through financing or other means.
“It’s a broader criminalisation, targeting a large number of activities within a terrorist organisation that are not concretely connected to a particular terrorist crime,” Justice Minister Gunnar Strömmer told reporters.
To date, it has been difficult to prosecute people unless their actions can be combined with a specific terror act, said Strömmer, adding that the new law will cover all forms of participation.
Actions such as carrying equipment, organising rallies, providing transportation or even cooking for organisations designated as terrorists would be criminalised under the new bill. The government plans to put the bill to a vote in parliament in March and bring it into force in June.
Strömmer said the need for stricter anti-terror laws emerged with a 2017 attack in central Stockholm, in which a man mowed down pedestrians and killed five on a busy shopping street. He added that the threat level had increased with Sweden seen as a legitimate target after the recent burning of the Quran by a far-right activist.
Sweden’s parliament approved a constitutional amendment recently to be able to pass more tough anti-terror laws over demands from Turkey for Stockholm’s NATO membership bid.
Of the 30 members of NATO, only Turkey and Hungary have yet to ratify the membership of Sweden and Finland. The two Nordic states applied for NATO membership together in May 2022 amidst security concerns due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
In exchange for ratifying Sweden’s membership, Turkey demands more action from Sweden, particularly against Kurdish groups it sees as terrorists, including members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and allied groups in Syria, as well as the extradition of dozens.
Turkey suspended the talks in January after demonstrations in Stockholm against the Turkish government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the anti-Islam protest against the Quran. Turkish authorities implied that the country could approve Finland’s NATO bid separately from Sweden.
Meanwhile, Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin, who met with her Swedish counterpart in Stockholm on Thursday, stated that Finland wants to continue the membership process with Sweden and said “I don’t like this view where Sweden is presented as the difficult child of the class.”