Mehmet Kaplan resigns
The Housing Minister Mehmet Kaplan resigned amidst revelations that he had attended a dinner at which members of a Turkish extremist group were present and that he had once compared Israel to Nazi Germany.
Prime Minister Stefan Löfven made the announcement at an impromptu press conference at Rosenbad held Monday. He said Kaplan, a member of the Green Party who was named Minister for Housing, Urban Development and Information Technology, had requested the resignation, which Löfven granted.
"The recent discussion stands in the way of his mission," said Löfven saying that Kaplan had made that assessment and the Prime Minister agreed.
At the press conference Kaplan defended his personal values as a politician.
"I reject all forms of extremism," he said. "The green ideology stands for peace, diversity and global solidarity. These are my values."
And Kaplan said: "We have landed in a situation in which what I stand for is questioned."
But he also denied accusations made against him.
"Let me be clear, this is not a confirmation of the information about me that I consider to be incorrect. I know who I am. Thats's why I can comfortably step away. I intend to continue my involvement. I feel very strong support from my party," said Kaplan.
Minister for Financial Markets, Per Bolund (Green Party), will take over Kaplan's duties as housing minister. Minister for Enterprize, Mikael Damberg (Social Democrats), will assume Kaplan's duties regarding IT matters.
Only last week it was revealed that Kaplan was at a celebration last summer that was also attended by the Swedish leader of the Turkish nationalist extremist group, the Grey Wolves. The news prompted Prime Minister Stefan Löfven (Social Democrat) to say that it was "to be deeply regretted" that the minister had been in their company.
But over the weekend Kaplan was exposed to a new bout of criticism. The newspaper Svenska Dagbladet turned up a statement Kaplan had made in 2009, recorded on video, in which he claimed during a meeting that "Israelis treat Palestinians much in the same way as Jews were treated in Germany during the 1930s." The meeting, which was held in Fittja, south of Stockholm, and which concerned Islamophobia, was broadcast by a local TV station Somali Star TV on Öppna kanalen.
The Foreign Minister Margot Wallström (Social Democrat) told TT and Swedish Radio in Luxembourg that she strongly distanced herself from Kaplan's statement.
In a written statement Center party leader Annie Lööf questioned whether Kaplan can remain in government, and Tomas Tobé, party secretary of the conservative Moderates, the largest opposition party, demanded that the Prime Minister clarify whether he still has confidence in Kaplan.
On Swedish Television's Agenda program, Mona Sahlin, the government's national coordinator against violent extremism, and former leader of the Social Democrats, said of the recent revelations around Kaplan, "I think that this is extremely serious and has become even more serious."
In a written statement to the Svenska Dagbladet, Kaplan expressed regret for his statement, if it had been understand as if he had wanted to escalate a conflict or diminish the persecution that Jews had been subject to. He clarified, "I showed, among other things, pictures of how Palestinian businesses had been closed and marked. My point was that Islamophobia and anti-Semitism can take extremely similar, nasty expressions."
According to the the European Parliament's working group against anti-Semitism, comparing Israel's policy with the Nazis may be anti-Semitic, and Israel's ambassador to Sweden, Isaac Bachman, told SVD that Kaplan's statement was outright anti-Semitism.