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Sweden: Man Sentenced to Prison for Soliciting Funding of Terrorist Organizations

(Feb. 28, 2017) On February 23, 2017, Malmö District Court sentenced a Swedish national to six months’ imprisonment for having “enticed funding” for the terrorist organizations Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State (IS). (Press Release, Fängelse för uppmaningar på Facebook om att finansiera terroristbrott [Prison for Enticement, on Facebook, to Fund Terrorist Crimes], Malmö tingsrätt (Feb. 23, 2017); Case B 10658-15, Malmö District Court [Malmö TR], Feb. 23, 20179 (on file with author).) The sentence was handed down in accordance with the Act on Punishment for Public Enticement and Education Regarding Terrorist Crimes and Other Extraordinarily Serious Crimes.  (Lagen om straff för offentlig uppmaning, rekrytering och utbildning avseende terroristbrott och annan särskilt allvarlig brottslighet (Svensk Författningssamling [SFS] 2010:299) RIKSDAGEN.)

The case is the first of its kind brought under the provision that criminalizes solicitation to commit terrorist crimes; in this case the solicitation was to fund a terrorist organization, a crime punishable on conviction with up to two years in prison. Specifically, section 3 of the provision reads: “[h]e who in a message to the public entices or otherwise tries to deceive [others to commit] extraordinary serious crimes is sentenced to two years of imprisonment.”  (Id. 3 §.).)

The prosecutor did not charge the defendant with directly collecting funds for a terrorist organization, as criminalized under the Swedish Act on Funding of Serious Crimes, a crime that is punishable upon conviction with up to six years’ imprisonment. (3a § Lagen om straff för finansiering av särskilt allvarlig brottslighet i vissa fall [Act on Punishment for Funding of Extraordinarily Serious Crimes] (SFS 2002:444).)

Although the defendant denied wrongdoing, the Court established that the man had solicited terrorist funding by making the following message available on his Facebook page: “[h]elp us supply our brothers at the front with weapons to avenge our siblings.” (Case B010658-15 Malmö TR at 8.)  The Court also found that he had provided contact information for two known funders of terrorism.  (Id. at 4.)  The Court found that he was the owner of the account, despite the alias used; that his objection that he had been given the Facebook account in order to access other accounts was improbable; and that in light of the full circumstances, including updates being made on his employer’s network, he had indeed exercised control over the account and intentionally provided information on the account to solicit funding of terrorism.  (Id. at 9-12.)

Because this was the first case where a person was charged with the crime of soliciting funding of terrorism, there are no higher court verdicts that guide sentencing, but the Court found that the severity of the terrorism crimes committed warranted a presumption of sentencing to prison and that there were no extenuating circumstances to rebut that presumption. (Id. at 12-13).  Due to his financial situation, the defendant was deemed wealthy enough, and sentenced accordingly, to repay the state for the cost of his counsel.  (Id. at 13.)

Any appeal of the sentence must be lodged with the Appeals Court for Skåne and Blekinge by March 16, 2017.

Impact of the Case

The impact of the case on the law of Sweden may not be that long-lived, as the Swedish government has announced the creation of a commission to overhaul and consolidate Swedish terrorism legislation. The commission has been asked to complete and present its report and recommendations by January 31, 2019. (Press Release, En ändamålsenlig och effektiv terrorismlagstiftning [Appropriate and Effective Terrorist Legislation], REGERINGSKANSLIET (Jan. 10, 2017).)