12:36 GMT +321 August 2019
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    A man types on a keyboard in front of a computer screen on which an Islamic State flag is displayed, in this picture illustration taken in Zenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina, February 6, 2016

    Swedish Prosecutor: Daesh Battle Flag Is Legal, Does Not Constitute Hate Speech

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    The flag of the terror group Daesh is legal to display in Sweden, and does not constitute hate speech, a prosecutor ruled last week.

    A 23-year-old man, originally from Syria, was under investigation by police in Laholm on suspicion that he had violated the country’s hate speech laws by posting the flag to his Facebook page. Sweden’s hate speech laws prohibit images or statements intended to incite hatred of a group of people based on race, national or ethnic origin, religious beliefs or sexual orientation.

    Prosecutor Gisela Sjövall ruled that the flag does not meet the criteria however, as it expresses hate for everyone and not just one specific group.

    “Put simply, one can say that he is expressing contempt for ‘all others,’ and not against a specific ethnic group,” Sjövall told SVT in Sweden

    Sjövall cited a swastika as an example of a violation of the law, as it is meant to represent hatred of Jewish people specifically.

    “Up until now, we haven’t come to that point,” the prosecutor told the Hallandsposten newspaper. “That could change in ten years.” 

    The flag, representing the violent extremist group, is banned in the Netherlands as well as in Germany, other than for educational purposes.

    The Syrian man who posted the image claimed that he does not support the terrorist organization, but posted it because it is the “Banner of the Eagle,” and is a flag said to have been flown by the prophet Mohammad.

    “He claims that this is not an IS flag, but instead a symbol which has is used within Islam, and which has been used for many hundreds of years before it was misappropriated by IS,” his lawyer Björn Nilsson told the Hallandsposten paper. 

    Sjövall is standing by her controversial ruling, though she acknowledged that if he had posted the flag with further context her opinion might have been different.

    “If there had been anything in the text [posted alongside the flag] with more specific formulations about certain groups, for example homosexuals, the ruling could have been different,” Sjövall explained.  “For me, there are no doubts about the decision not to prosecute.” 

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    Tags:
    Hate Speech, Terrorism, Daesh, Gisela Sjövall, Sweden, Syria
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