Swedish police arrest dozens after clashes at anti-immigrant rally

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Swedish police arrested 26 people after weekend clashes between police and protesters rallying against plans by a far-right group to burn copies of the Koran, police said on Monday.

Eight people were arrested in the city of Norrkoping and 18 people were detained in the neighbouring city of Linkoping, police said in a statement.

On Sunday, clashes erupted in both cities during rallies by anti-immigration and anti-Islam group Hard Line, led by the Danish-Swedish politician Rasmus Paludan.

Police said officers wounded three people after firing warning shots during Sunday's clashes.

The three who were injured were under arrest, police said, adding that their condition was not known. Sunday's clashes in Norrkoping were the second there in four days.

On Sunday, they rallied again to protest at another gathering, which in the end Paludan abandoned.

Clashes with police have erupted during protests against the group since Thursday evening, starting in the cities Linkoping and Norrkoping.

They spread to the city of Malmo, where a school was set alight during a second night of unrest Saturday-Sunday.

Swedish 'tour'

Paludan, who intends to stand in Swedish legislative elections in September but does not yet have the necessary number of signatures to secure his candidature, is currently on a "tour" of Sweden. He is visiting neighbourhoods with large Muslim populations where he wants to burn copies of the Koran. A lawyer and YouTuber, he has previously been convicted of racist insults.

In 2019, he burned a Koran wrapped in bacon and was blocked for a month by Facebook after a post conflating immigration and crime. On Saturday, one of his rallies was moved from a district of Landskrona to an isolated car park in southern Malmo, the large neighbouring city, but a car tried to force the protective barriers. The driver was arrested and Paludan then burned a Koran.

Hard Line's tour has sparked several clashes between the police and counter-protesters across the Scandinavian country in recent days. On Thursday and Friday, around 12 police officers were injured in the clashes.

In the wake of the string of incidents, Iraq's foreign ministry said it had summoned the Swedish chargé d'affaires in Baghdad Sunday. It warned that the affair could have "serious repercussions" on "relations between Sweden and Muslims in general, both Muslim and Arab countries and Muslim communities in Europe".

In November 2020, Paludan was arrested in France and deported. Five other activists were arrested in Belgium shortly after, accused of wanting to "spread hatred" by burning a Koran in Brussels.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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