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Swedish Court: Expressing Support For ISIS Is Not Hate Speech

REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

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Jacob Bojesson Foreign Correspondent
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A Swedish court has decided to not press charges against a man who used the Islamic State flag as his Facebook profile picture, saying it doesn’t fall under hate speech.

The defendant, a 23-year-old man originally from Syria, was suspected of hate speech for using the image. He claimed the flag has been used as a symbol of Islam for hundreds of years, and just recently become associated with ISIS.

The prosecutor decided to dismiss the case since the flag doesn’t target a defined minority group, but rather a large global community.

“Simply put you may say he expresses despise against ‘everyone else,’ not a specific group of people,” Prosecutor Gisela Sjöwall told public broadcaster SVT. “The group becomes too large to call it hate speech.”

If the man had been found guilty of hate speech, it would have set a precedent to make the flag illegal in Sweden. The decision to drop the case may now instead allow people to fly it in their backyards.

A key aspect in the decision not to prosecute was the caption to the image, which has not been made public.

“If there would have been specific expressions targeting certain groups, such as gays, the outcome would have been different,” Sjöwall told SVT.

Symbols such as the swastika are outlawed in the country and people face up to two years in prison for hate speech.

Sjöwall said it is possible that the flag gets included as hate speech in the future, but that there are no grounds to compare it to the swastika under the current legislation.

“There are no doubts for me surrounding the decision to not prosecute,” she said.

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