In the early morning of March 22, three peace activists were arrested at
Saab Aerospace Systems’ weapons factory in Linköping, Sweden. Martin
Smedjeback, Annika Spalde and Pelle Strindlund were on their way to disarm Jas 39 Gripen fighter jets intended for export to India, Thailand
and South Africa.
The peace activists, who are all part of the anti-militaristic network
Ofog, entered Saab’s industry area in Linköping, 200 kilometers from the
capital Stockholm, by cutting holes in the barbed wire fence surrounding
the area. Once inside, they observed a minute of silence, dedicated to the
twenty children that die every minute because of poverty in a world that
invests more money in weapons than in fighting poverty.
In 2010 the Indian air defence will order 126 Jas 39 Gripen fighter jets.
Saab is currently marketing these jets in India with vast support from the
Swedish government. If Saab gets the contract, the Swedish-built jet could
be mounted with weapons of mass destruction, as part of the Indian nuclear weapon programme.
– India’s 200 million starving citizens don’t need expensive fighter
jets. What they need is food and clean water. When I was in India in
February, I saw the widespread poverty with my own eyes. Several Indian
organizations begged us Swedes to stop the weapons export to their country, said Martin Smedjeback, 35, a non-violence educator.
As a symbol of the Indian resistance the activists put a picture of the
Indian activist Elsey Jacob on the perimeter fence before going inside. A
picture of the South African bishop Desmond Tutu was also put up. Tutu is
working to make his government cancel the Jas 39 Gripen affair. In 1999
Saab managed to sell 28 Jas 39 Gripen to South Africa to a total of 17
billion Swedish crowns. South African social movements critizise this
affair of being bribed. Beside, many critics claim that this weapon affair
is taking resources from fighting poverty and HIV in South Africa.
– I simply can not accept that my country, by its weapons export, breeds
conflicts and poverty. Sweden will deliver six Jas 39 Gripen to Thailand,
despite the fact that the chief of Thai air defence declared in public that
the planes will be used in the armed conflict in the Southern parts of the
country, said Annika Spalde, 39, an author and lay worker in the Church of
The affair with South Africa is just as objectionable. According to the
South African Christian council, the agreement should be stopped
immediately. According to them the country’s largest enemy is poverty and
that the money is needed for that struggle, she continued.
– In general, we should follow the law, but senseless obedience is not in
any way worth striving for. Civil disobedience by peacefully objecting the
law can be an obligation in certain situations. When governments and
companies cooperate to export weapons to poor countries and conflict zones, it is ordinary citizens’ duty to intervene, says Pelle Strindlund, 37, an author.
The action in Linköping, Sweden, is part of the campaign ”Avrusta”
(Disarm) launched in the autumn of 2008. By public opinion raising and
civil disobedience actions, the campaign aims to stop the Swedish weapons
export. In October 2008, two coordinated disarmament actions took place in the towns of Karlskoga and Eskilstuna. Parts for the howitzer cannon
(FH77B), going to India, and grenade launchers Carl Gustaf, used by the US army in Iraq, were disarmed. Two of the activists were sentenced to three months imprisonment and demands of 220 000 Swedish crowns, and two other activists to four months in prison.
You find more information at http://www.avrusta.se. There you also find
video material from the action at the Jas 39 Gripen factory in Linköping, and photos of the activists. All this material is free for use.
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