(Dec. 10, 2019) On November 13, 2019, the Swedish Supreme Court convicted a man of encouraging and financing terrorism by posting a call for donations via a public Facebook post. (Supreme Court, Case B 5948-17, Nov. 13, 2019.) The case is reportedly the first of its kind in Sweden.
The man had posted public messages on Facebook that included calls for actions such as “[h]elp us to supply our brothers at the front with weapons to that we can revenge our siblings” and “[c]ontact me to supply your brothers at the front.” (Case B 5948-17, para. 2.)
Sweden criminalizes public instigation in what is commonly referred to as the Recruitment Act. (2 § 5 and 3 § Lagen (2010:299) om straff för offentlig uppmaning, rekrytering och utbildning avseende terroristbrott och annan särskilt allvarlig brottslighet (rekryteringslagen).)
Specifically this law provides that “[a]nyone who, in a message to the public, instigates or otherwise seeks to entice [another] to commit particularly serious criminality is to be sentenced to imprisonment not to exceed two years.” (§ 3, translation and emphasis by author.)
Particularly serious crimes (Särskild allvarlig brottslighet) are defined in the Act on Criminal Responsibility for the Financing of Particularly Serious Crime in Some Cases. (Lag (2002:444) om straff för finansiering av särskilt allvarlig brottslighet i vissa fall.) Article 3 provides that funding criminal activity is one such particularly serious crime that is covered by the legislation. Specifically, article 3 states that
[i]mprisonment, not to exceed two years, shall be imposed on a person who collects, provides or receives funds or other property with the intent that it be used, or with knowledge that it is to be used;
1. to commit a particularly serious crime, or …
2. by a person or persons forming an association that commits a particularly serious crime, or is guilty of an attempt, preparation, or conspiracy to commit, or complicity in such a crime.
If the offense under the first paragraph is deemed a gross violation, imprisonment for a minimum of six months and not to exceed six years shall be imposed. In assessing whether the offense is a gross violation, special consideration shall be given to whether the offense was part of an activity carried out on a large scale or otherwise was of a particularly dangerous kind. Punishment shall not be imposed in petty cases.
The Supreme Court stated that “the characteristic of terrorism, as the term is understood in international law, is that the actions are targeted toward, or to a disproportional extent, affect civilians” (Case B 5948-17, para. 24), and went on to note that
AQ [the defendant] has been well aware of Jahbat al-Nusras, and the Islamic State’s systematic terror actions and warfare. His purpose in spreading the messages has been for the public to provide money or other property as financial support for weapons purchases as a retaliation for a chemical attack against civilians and, among other things, the aforementioned organizations. He must also have been aware that one cannot distinguish between weapons purchases for [use against] different targets in the organizations’ warfare. His intent with the public calls for donations therefore includes funding of particularly serious crimes, which include attacks on civilians. AQ shall therefore be convicted of violating 3 § of the Recruitment Act.” (Case B 5948-17, para. 48.)
The Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals decision to sentence the man to six months imprisonment. (Case B 5948-17, para. 49.)