Irish man flees Sweden for safety after criticising pandemic response

ireland
Keith Begg was accused of threatening democracy and received threats to his safety. Photo: PA Images.
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An Irish man with citizenship in Sweden says he has been forced to flee the country over fears for his safety, after he criticised Sweden's handling of the pandemic.

Keith Begg posted his opinions on a private Facebook group which gained radio publicity.

He said he has since been accused of threatening democracy and received threats to his safety, and felt he had to leave the country to protect himself and his family.

Speaking to Newstalk radio on Thursday, Mr Begg said: “I’ve been there for nearly eight years, my husband is Swedish, I have Swedish citizenship, it has become my home.

“Of course I want to return, I just felt that I had to get out of there to protect myself and also my family there.”

In recent days, The Irish Times reported that Mr Begg set up a private Facebook group with about 200 members with the aim of “exposing the failed Swedish Covid-19 strategy”.

National security threat

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However, a national radio report on Swedish public radio (SR) suggested the group he moderated was a national security threat and portrayed his online activities as “attempting to influence Swedish interests abroad”.

Mr Begg said the report triggered a wave of abuse and threats: “I received a letter in my postbox referring to me as a traitor, I got hate speech... calling me a dirty foreigner.”

The 46-year-old made the decision to return to Limerick following the response that he described as “like something from an authoritarian state.”

I’ve been called a terrorist, when we are just ordinary citizens who advocate in their spare time

“We have been portrayed as a clandestine group, and I’ve been called a terrorist, when we are just ordinary citizens who advocate in their spare time,” he said.

Mr Begg, a long-time advocate in human rights and environmental issues, said he set up the group because members were tired of being attacked in other forums for expressing views that dissented from the Swedish mainstream.

He insists he did nothing beyond normal campaigning work including writing to EU embassies, urging their governments to study Swedish infection data closely, and challenging what he calls skewed reports by Swedish authorities on how keeping its schools open has had no negative public health effects.

Unlike its European neighbours, Sweden declined to impose hard lockdowns and only recently has adopted additional measures such as face masks on public transport.

The country of 10 million has 12,713 registered deaths from Covid-19 — nearly five times higher than the combined death toll of its Nordic neighbours.

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