Police cordon off the area outside the Turkish embassy in Stockholm, Sweden, Saturday Jan. 21, 2023 Image Credit: AFP file

STOCKHOLM: Swedish police said they have granted a permit for a protest where the organiser plans to burn a Quran outside Stockholm’s main mosque on Wednesday, the start of the three-day Eid Al Adha holiday.

The police said in the written decision that the security risks associated with the burning “were not of a nature that could justify, under current laws, a decision to reject the request.”

The green light came two weeks after a Swedish appeals court rejected the police’s decision to deny permits for two demonstrations in Stockholm which were to include Koran burnings.

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Police had at the time cited security concerns, following a burning of the Muslim holy book outside Turkey’s embassy in January which led to weeks of protests, calls for a boycott of Swedish goods and further stalled Sweden’s NATO membership bid.

Turkey, which has blocked the bid due to what it perceives as Stockholm’s failure to crack down on Kurdish groups it views as “terrorists”, took particular offence that police had authorised the January demonstration.

Police then banned two subsequent requests for protests involving Koran burnings - one by a private individual and one by an organisation, outside the Turkish and Iraqi embassies in Stockholm in February.

The appeals court in mid-June ruled that police were wrong to ban those, saying “the order and security problems” referenced by the police did not have “a sufficiently clear connection to the planned event or its immediate vicinity.”

The request for the Wednesday demonstration was made by the same private individual who had his previous request blocked.

“I want to protest in front of the large mosque in Stockholm, and I want to express my opinion about the Quran... I will tear up the Koran and burn it,” Salwan Momika, 37, wrote in the application, a copy of which was obtained by AFP.

Police said Wednesday they had called in reinforcements from across the country to maintain order.

An AFP correspondent said several police cars were already parked near the mosque early Wednesday.

Swedish politicians have criticised Quran burnings, but have also adamantly defended the right to freedom of expression.