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Sweden is `hotbed of neo-Nazism'

Sweden's reputation as one of the most tolerant countries in the world is under threat. Last week King Carl XVI Gustaf joined an appeal for an end to racist violence after extremist groups had tried to prevent distribution of an anti-racist magazine. And an international survey to be published tomorrow says the level of neo-Nazi propaganda is "unique" for a country its size.

The king's concerns were prompted by attacks on a small anti-racist magazine called Expo. Its staff have been threatened repeatedly since the first edition came out last September. Several retailers have taken it off their shelves, and the printer has refused to put out any more issues after attacks.

When police raided the headquarters of the National Alliance, an extreme right group accused of the attacks, they seized explosives, tear gas, clubs, and other weapons. They also found a cake topped with a Nazi swastika. Five people were arrested, of whom one was held in jail for further questioning.

On Sweden's national day last Thursday, the king called on Swedes to be "generous and constructive", saying: "We must all demonstrate openness toward new ideas and each other without looking at background, colour of skin or religion." He pointed out that he was of French ancestry and that his wife, Queen Silvia, is half Brazilian and half German. The next day leading Swedish newspapers published excerpts from Expo.

"The attempt by neo-Nazis to prevent a magazine from reaching its readers through terror must not be allowed to succeed," the daily Dagens Nyheter said in an unusual front-page editorial. Sweden's largest tabloids, Expressen and Aftonbladet, also carried extracts, and tomorrow plan to publish a whole edition of the magazine, which normally has a circulation of 2,500.

Friday's excerpts included a list of more than 60 incidents in Sweden since March in which people had allegedly been attacked or victimised because of their race. They included a knife attack on a 16-year-old Iraqi boy by skinheads, who carved a swastika on his arm, and several fatal stabbings and beatings of immigrants. Swedish police investigated over 100 racist attacks last year. In one of the worst, a 14-year-old boy from an immigrant family was kicked to death by three skinheads.

"Overall, racist propaganda and violence in Sweden has increased," says the 1996 issue of the Anti-Semitism World Report, published by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research. This year's report, which comes out tomorrow, says neo-Nazi elements have established a racist subculture which has seen "remarkable growth" in recent years. "Not since the war has Swedish neo-Nazism been as self-confident as it is now. Thequantity of its propaganda relative to the population is unique."