Sweden Struggling to Prosecute Returning Jihadis Due to Burden of Proof

An internal security patrol escorts women, reportedly wives of Islamic State (IS) group fighters, in the al-Hol camp in al-Hasakeh governorate in northeastern Syria, on July 23, 2019. - Stabbing guards, stoning aid workers and flying the Islamic State group's black flag in plain sight: the wives and children of the 'caliphate' are sticking by the jihadists in a desperate Syrian camp. Months after the defeat of the jihadist proto-state, families of IS fighters are among 70,000 people crammed into the Kurdish-run Al-Hol camp in northeastern Syria. (Photo by DELIL SOULEIMAN / AFP) / TO GO WITH AFP STORY BI DELIL SULEIMAN

There are currently about 40 ongoing preliminary investigations against Daesh* returnees over war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity. So far, almost none of the Swedish jihadists has faced trial.

A woman who travelled to Syria and joined Daesh has returned to Sweden. While the woman was arrested upon arrival at Stockholm’s Arlanda Airport on suspicion of unlawful separation of children, her future remains unclear, the newspaper Sydsvenskan reported.

“The woman took her two-and-a-half-year-old child to the Middle East under the pretence that they were going on a holiday trip to Turkey”, chamber prosecutor Claudio Gittermann from the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Helsingborg said, underscoring that the child will be reunited with the father who stayed in Sweden.

The woman later ended up in a Syrian city under Daesh rule and instead of holiday pictures appeared in photographs holding a Kalashnikov that she called her “best friend”. How she returned to Sweden is also unclear.

According to Sweden’s leading terrorism researcher Magnus Ranstorp of the National Defence College, there are about 40 ongoing preliminary investigations against various Daesh returnees over war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity.

Terror-related crimes committed by Daesh returnees are notoriously hard to prove, Ranstorp, said, stressing that this also applies to the woman.

“If you have no digital tracks or testimonies, it is very difficult to get her convicted of anything”, Magnus Ranstorp admitted to national broadcaster SVT.

At the same time, he admitted that she may be highly dangerous.

“Everyone who has had contact with Daesh can be classified as dangerous, but exactly how dangerous she is cannot be said without knowing her psychological state or beliefs or what exactly what she has done down there”, Ranstorp underscored.

The unlawful separation which she is suspected of may yield her four years in prison, if convicted. Ranstorp stressed that she will be of interest to the Security Police (Säpo) even when she walks free.

“I have a hard time imagining that there will be hidden reconnaissance on her but she will be kept an eye on”, Ranstorp said.

In recent years, Sweden has produced about 300 “Daesh travellers”, as they are referred to in the country’s media parlance, some of the most per capita in Europe.

While about half of them have returned, the Scandinavian country is notoriously lax at punishing the returnees. Unlike neighbouring Denmark, which withdraws citizenship from jihadists, almost none of the Swedish “travellers” faced trial for crimes committed in the Middle East due to the burden of proof.

In recent years, the Swedish Securty Police’s estimate of the number of violent Islamists has risen tenfold from about 200 in 2010 to about 2,000.

*Daesh (ISIS, ISIL, “Islamic State”) is a terrorist organisation banned in Russia and elsewhere



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