Säpo accused of acting out of panic

3:57 min

Many are critical of the way the Swedish intelligence service, Säpo, handled a manhunt last week for the 22-year-old who was first arrested, suspected of planning terrorist activities, and then released, freed of all suspicion.

When the man was first seized on Thursday evening, the police authorities were praised for their quick action, but during the weekend, doubts started to creep in about whether this man was, in fact, dangerous. His name was printed on the door where he lived, meaning that he was not trying to hide, and his Facebook profile seemed benign. On Sunday, the man was finally freed, leading Säpo to be criticized for having gotten it wrong.

On Twitter, Säpo's head of press Sirpa Franzén, went out and defended the organization, writing that intelligence work consists of much more than a Facebook profile and a name printed on the door. Franzén continued in the Tweet that Säpo/the Police assessed the information that was gathered and acted accordingly.

Lawyer Thomas Olsson, who has represented several clients who have been accused of committing terrorist-related crimes, told newspaper Dagens Nyheter that he got the impression that Säpo had acted out of panic, and felt it remarkable that Säpo had chosen to make public their search for the man. He believed that doing so created unnecessary worry. He also believes that Säpo needs to show how they handled the case if they want to hold onto the public's trust.

Terrorism researcher Magnus Norrell also criticized the security service for creating unnecessary fear by making the arrest of the young man so public.

However, Anne Ramberg, the chair of the Swedish Bar Association, emphasized the importance of not being too hasty in drawing conclusions about who acted rightly or wrongly. She urged for cool-headedness, explaining to the paper, "we don't know what material they have and can't require them to go out and show it to the public, even if there might be good reasons to do it in the long run."

Commenting on the way the 22-year-old was arrested and then released, Home Affairs Minister Anders Ygeman (Social Democrat) told news agency TT, "Naturally, it's unfortunate for the individual, but it's positive that this could be investigated."

When asked about how a person could be exposed in this way, without there being grounds for it, he said that unfortunately, it has to do with the mood in society after the terrorist attacks in Paris. Ygeman said that the prosecutor had the suspect arrested in absentia, adding that it is natural for the police to search for the person and release a picture of him. Ygeman said he has confidence for both Säpo and the police, since they have had the public's interest at heart.

He also said that the terror threat level in Sweden remains heightened, because "this case was just a part of the basis for that assessment."

In the meantime, the 22-year-old former suspect has now been offered help from Säpo in cooperation with other authorities.

Fredrik Milder, press secretary of Säpo, told Swedish Radio News that the man's life has been affected by this event, and that Säpo must take responsibility, just like other authorities do when people are pulled out of their daily lives and put in this kind of situation. He said that the man had unwillingly become a public figure and that that's something Säpo has tried to avoid. Milder said they have treated the former suspect with high integrity.