The Swedish wellfarestate- A breedinground for terrorism
Sweden has been criticised in the past for not being sufficiently proactive in its stance against radical Islamist groups. In 2002, a former CIA chief of operations interviewed by BBC's Newsnight stated that both the CIA and FBI had concerns over the liberal way Sweden was dealing with the perceived threat of terrorism. Four years on, such a description seems increasingly irrelevant. In 2005, after having obtained the conviction in the terrorist financing case, the head of the Swedish National Security Service (Säkerhetspolisen: SÄPO), Klas Bergenstrand, expressed satisfaction with the outcome of the trial. He also admitted that terrorist financing was a problem in Sweden but indicated that further prosecutions were to be expected.
One of the cases implicitly referred to was the Sanabil al-Aqsa Foundation in Sweden (also based in Malmo). The foundation has been under investigation since 2003 on suspicion of having collected and transferred funds to Hamas. That year, US authorities asked Sweden to freeze the foundation's resources, but the Swedish prosecutor denied the request, citing insufficient evidence.
The Al-Aqsa case is a good illustration of the trade-off faced by security services aiming to suppress suspected terrorist financing while avoiding alienating charitable Muslims who simply wish to contribute humanitarian funds to alleviate suffering overseas. On the one hand, several of Al-Aqsa's alleged sister institutions in the Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium and Germany have been shut down due to allegations of terrorist funding emanating from the US. However, representatives of Al-Aqsa in Sweden deny having any links to these organisations. Furthermore, the foundation admits having collected an estimated USD250,000 annually in Sweden and channelling this money to the Palestinian Territories (Swedish authorities estimates the figure is closer to USD600,000 a year).
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