Report: Quran-burning protester is ordered to leave Sweden but deportation on hold for now

STOCKHOLM (AP) — Sweden reportedly withdrew the residence permit of an Iraqi man who staged a series of public desecrations of the Quran this year but put his deportation on hold, saying his life would be in danger if he were returned to Iraq.

Sweden’s Migration Agency made the decision this week after determining that Salwan Momika had provided false information in his application for asylum, Swedish broadcaster TV4 reported Thursday.

An order of deportation was issued but placed on hold for security reasons, a Migration Agency official told the television station Thursday. Swedish media say Momika was granted a residence permit in 2021.

“The decision was made yesterday and means that this person's status and residence permit will be revoked and that he will be deported,” agency spokesman Jesper Tengroth was quoted as saying.

However, Tengroth added that “this person risks being subjected to torture and inhuman treatment if he returns to his home country. We have therefore decided that there is an obstacle to enforcing the deportation.”

Momika angered Muslims both in Sweden and abroad with anti-Islam protests in which he burned or otherwise desecrated the Quran. Swedish authorities allowed his demonstrations, citing freedom of speech, but his actions raised alarm among government and security officials who warned they could make Sweden a target for Islamic extremists.

Swedish police also filed preliminary hate speech charges against him.

Last week two Swedish soccer fans were killed before a match in Brussels in an attack by a gunman who specifically targeted Swedes, according to Sweden’s prime minister. Belgian authorities said the alleged gunman, who was shot dead by police following a manhunt, posted a video online after the attack in which he said the Quran was “a red line for which he is ready to sacrifice himself.”

Momika said he didn't want to put Sweden at risk but was exercising his right to criticize Islam under freedom of speech. He told TV4 he would appeal the decision to withdraw his residence permit.

“They want me to leave the country,” he was quoted as saying. “They told me to find a country that can receive me; otherwise it’s Iraq.”

Momika told TV4 he had no plans to leave Sweden and denied having given false information in his asylum application.

Tengroth wouldn't give details on what information in the application was false.