Turkiye has cancelled the Swedish defence chief's visit after the Swedish authorities permitted a planned burning of the Quran. The response comes after Rasmus Paludan, a leader of the Danish far-right party Stram Kurs (Hard Line), was permitted to burn the Quran near the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm.
Last week, Turkiye called on Sweden to take steps against terror groups following a demonstration in Stockholm where supporters of the PKK terrorist organisation hung an effigy by the feet of a figure of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Footage was later uploaded of the provocation along with threats against Turkiye and Erdogan.
"We regretfully witnessed that no measures were taken as a result of these vile and heinous acts against Turkiye […] Therefore, at this point, the visit of Swedish Defence Minister Jonson to Turkiye on January 27 has become meaningless. So, we cancelled the visit," announced Turkish National Defence Minister Hulusi Akar.
Turkiye warned Sweden that allowing propaganda activities that PKK-affiliated circles were preparing to carry out in Stockholm on Saturday was a "clear violation" of the tripartite deal, according to the Turkish diplomatic sources. Turkiye further criticised Sweden for permitting a planned burning of the Quran, with Turkiye's foreign minister denouncing: "Racism and hate crimes do not count as freedom of thought."
"According to Swedish law, the decisions of the Council of Europe, and the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights, hate crimes and racism are not freedom of thought or freedom of expression," he added.
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Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom shared his concerns that the demonstration risks further delaying Turkiye's ratification of Sweden's NATO bid. Sweden and Finland formally applied to join NATO last May, abandoning decades of military non-alignment – a decision spurred by Russia's war on Ukraine, which started on 24 February, 2022.
However, Billstrom added that it would be "very inappropriate" for him to ban someone from carrying out a demonstration.
Far-right politician and lawyer Paludan first came to public attention in 2017 when he published YouTube videos criticising Muslims. In 2020, he was disbarred from the legal profession and sentenced to three months in jail after being found guilty of racism.
Paludan's demonstrations have included publicly burning the Quran, sometimes wrapped in bacon, in what he described as a tribute to free speech. He later applied for Swedish citizenship to be able to carry out his stunts to freely burn the Muslim Quran in the country.