Anti-Turkey protests in Sweden heighten tensions over NATO bid

© TT News Agency, via Reuters

Protests in Stockholm on Saturday against Turkey and Sweden's bid to join NATO, including the burning of a copy of the Koran, sharply heightened tensions with Turkey at a time when the Nordic country needs Ankara's backing to gain entry to the military alliance.

"We condemn in the strongest possible terms the vile attack on our holy book ... Permitting this anti-Islam act, which targets Muslims and insults our sacred values, under the guise of freedom of expression is completely unacceptable," the Turkish Foreign Ministry said.

Its statement was issued after an anti-immigrant politician from the far-right fringe burned a copy of the Koran near the Turkish Embassy. The Turkish ministry urged Sweden to take necessary actions against the perpetrators and invited all countries to take concrete steps against Islamophobia.

A separate protest took place in the city supporting Kurds and against Sweden's bid to join NATO. A group of pro-Turkish demonstrators also held a rally outside the embassy. All three events had police permits.

Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom said that Islamophobic provocations were appalling.

"Sweden has a far-reaching freedom of expression, but it does not imply that the Swedish Government, or myself, support the opinions expressed," Billstrom said on Twitter.

The Koran-burning was carried out by Rasmus Paludan, leader of Danish far-right political party Hard Line. Paludan, who also has Swedish citizenship, has held a number of demonstrations in the past where he has burned the Koran.

Police said the situation was calm at all three demonstrations.

(Reuters)


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