Elin Ersson sentenced to fine for anti-deportation protest | News | DW | 18.02.2019
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Elin Ersson sentenced to fine for anti-deportation protest

A Swedish activist who livestreamed her attempt on board a plane to stop the deportation of an Afghan man has been found guilty of breaking aviation laws. But the student did avoid a potential jail term.

Watch video 02:52

Activist Elin Ersson defends her actions

A district court in Gothenburg, Sweden on Monday sentenced Elin Ersson to a 3,000 kronor ($325, €287) fine for refusing to take her seat in a bid to stop the deportation of an Afghan man.

Prosecutors had called for Ersson to serve a six-month prison sentence for violating Sweden's air traffic regulations, but the court ruled that a fine was sufficient punishment.

Details of the case:

  • Ersson livestreamed a protest on an Istanbul-bound Turkish Airlines flight from Gothenburg.
  • She was charged with violating Swedish aviation laws by disobeying orders from aircraft personnel.
  • The court ruled that Ersson understood that she was to sit in her seat as the pilot commanded, and therefore was in violation of Sweden's Aviation Act.
  • Ersson believed she didn't violate the law, claiming she was acting for a person in need. The court rejected that argument in its ruling, saying the situation did not classify as passenger distress.
  • Her attorney had also argued that her actions occurred while the plane was grounded, rather than in the air.

Several things went wrong:  Ersson and the Afghan man eventually disembarked the plane, though the man was later deported to Afghanistan. Her protest was originally meant to prevent the deportation of a 26-year-old failed asylum-seeker named Ismail Khawari, but he was not on the plane and was deported the next day. The man she ended up helping had been convicted of abusing his wife and daughter.

Viral protest: Ersson's Facebook livestream of the protest, which lasted more than 14 minutes, was watched more than 50,000 times the evening it was posted and currently has 5.4 million views. More than 13 million people worldwide have seen it, according to a London-based production company. 

Read more: How Elin Ersson and other European activists derail deportations

Legal complaints: Files were charged against Ersson on the day of her protest, but there were also many legal complaints lodged against her. Some came from people who were on the plane, while most of the other complaints came from people who had watched or read about the video, according to the state prosecutor.

Read more: Deportation protester Elin Ersson: 'Too much emotion — too few arguments'

Who is Elin Ersson? The 21 year-old is studying to become a social worker at the University of Gothenburg. She works for an association in Gothenburg which provides assistance for underage refugees. She has been critical of Sweden's immigration policy and has stated that Afghanistan is not safe for returnees.

Read more: Afghanistan: Sent back to a war zone

Tighter asylum rules: Sweden received 163,000 asylum claims in 2015, more than any other country in terms of share of population. The Scandinavian country then decided to tighten its asylum laws in July 2016, passing a bill that limited the number of refugees permitted to join relatives already settled in the country and suspended the granting of temporary residence permits to asylum seekers for three years. The immigration debate also featured prominently in Sweden's elections last year, which saw rise of the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats. 

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