Disarming Swedish arms export

DisarmDisarmSweden has historically been a big weapons producer and exporter. For decades the Swedish peace movement have been working to end the Swedish weapons export. In spite of this the weapons export has dramatically increased lately. Since 2001 it has tripled and today Sweden is the second biggest weapons exporter in world per capita. Swedish weapons go to countries at war like the US, to dictatorships like Saudi Arabia and human rights abusers like Bahrain. In the antimilitaristic network Ofog (means mischief) we discussed the dire situation and we felt that we have the moral obligation to stop these weapons before they are used to kill people. Because of this five of us decided to do disarmament actions, where we hammer on weapons until they are rendered harmless. Aside from stopping individual weapons we hoped that these direct actions would start a much needed discussion that would lead to political changes to stop or at least decrease the number of weapons exported. To make it easy for the public to help with this goal we started the campaign Disarm with the website www.avrusta.se as its centre.

At about 2:30 a.m. Thursday morning the 16th of October, Cattis Laska and Pelle Strindlund approached the BAE Systems weapons facility in Karlskoga, Sweden, about 240 kilometers away from Stockholm. They used bolt cutters to cut open a hole in the security fence and entered. They left behind a banner welcoming others which said "The door is open - you are free to start disarming." The activists used hammers to damage internal parts like cooling aggregates and hydraulic cylinders for the Howitzer 77. Inside the duo managed to affix a poster to the door which said "In this factory are manufactured weapons that are used to wage wars - Disarmament is underway." They were arrested and charged with trespassing and criminal damage. Laska is a youth leader and Strindlund is a writer.

Simultaneously, Anna Andersson and I entered a weapons facility run by Saab in Eskilstuna, Sweden, about 135 kilometers away. We damaged 14 grenade launchers with hammers. When we felt we had disarmed them we called the police who came after a while. We were arrested and charged with trespass, severe criminal damage, and entering a protected national security area. Andersson is a web developer and I am a trainer in nonviolence. The weapons damaged in the Saab plant were described as Carl Gustav type grenade launchers. These are shoulder mounted anti-tank weapons which can fire high explosive rounds. After being released from jail Friday, Andersson indicated she was glad to be going to trial. "I look forward to a chance to ethically and legally argue for our actions in court. I hope one day the arms manufacturers will be charged for the criminal damage that Swedish armaments cause in wars and conflicts around the world."

Also early Saturday morning, a fifth member of the group, Annika Spalde, 39, cut her way through the fence around a weapons plant in Karlskoga and hung a banner encouraging more disarmament actions. She was later arrested. She is charged with trespass in a place of national security. Spalde, who was later released, is a deacon in the Swedish church, an author and peace activist.

Laska and Strindlund were held in custody for three weeks and had their trial the 5th of November. They were sentenced to three months in prison and 20 000 Euros in damages. Andersson, Spalde and I are still waiting for their trials which will most likely be held in January or February of 2009. Saab Bofors Dynamics has filed a notification of damage where they want $141,000 for the disarmament Andersson and I did.
court in Swedencourt in Sweden

Our disarmament actions have been met by a lot of support from known and unknown. More than 200 people have signed the campaign’s appeal for peaceful disarmament. A few parliamentarians support our aims but say that they need more public support before they can act to stop the weapons export. With a rather slow start the media has picked up interest with pieces in some of the biggest newspapers, TV and radio in Sweden but also some in the US and Iran!

The campaign Disarm will continue in the spring of 2009 with more trials and other activities towards a world with no weapons.

Martin Smedjeback, member of the Disarm campaign

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