SWEDEN: A disarmer’s letter from prison

22 August 2010
SWEDEN: A disarmer’s letter from prison

The following has been edited from a June 17, 2010 letter written by Swedish CPT member Martin Smedjeback in Skenäs Prison near Noorköpping, Sweden.  The full letter may be found here.

Do you have your sentence papers with you?” asks a guard. “Yes,” I answer and hand them the papers confirming my four-month sentence. They ask me to wait. Two inmates come out from their dorms and sit on a bench across the yard. One shouts to me, “You new here?”

“Yes,” I shout back.

“What are you in for?” he continues.

“Criminal damage,” I answer.

“What have you destroyed?”

“Bazookas,” I answer.

I walk over and sit next to them to avoid screaming. The older man smokes while the younger one continues to ask about our disarmament action. I describe how we went into Saab Bofors Dynamics in Eskilstuna in October 2008 and hammered on the bazookas as part of our “Mischief” (Ofog) antimilitaristic network.

“You actually called the police and waited for them at the crime scene?” the young guy asks in disbelief.

“Yep, it is a part of civil disobedience. To take responsibility for your actions,” I say.

“Is he also part of your network?” asks the young man, pointing the picture of St Francis on my t-shirt.

“No,” I answer “but it’s fair to say he shared our conviction of nonviolence.”

In the corridor, I meet some of my new neighbors. They seem nice. Over a cup of java, we stand and chat. “Why didn’t you put dynamite around the whole weapon factory?” asks a young inmate. I tell him it would be too big of a risk to us and anyone who might be in the factory. And even if nobody got hurt, it would send the wrong signal.

“If I would have blown up a weapon factory I would been called a terrorist, but if you had done the same thing you would have been called a rebel. Because, we look different,” says the young man with dark complexion and black eyebrows.

“But why didn’t you steal the bazookas?” he asks.

“We are opposed to any violence,” I try to explain.

“Could you do a disarmament action on your own?” he asks.

“Maybe,” I say “but it would be difficult. We discovered that it would have been much easier to break into the factory with two crowbars. We only had one.”

“Isn’t it better to kidnap a guard and to force him to open the door? Then you don’t have to use violence,” he says.

“But don’t you have to have some kind of weapon to force him with?” I ask.

“Yeah, maybe a small knife,” he admits.

As I write, I’ve been here a month. My days are spent at a computer writing what I hope can become a book (in Swedish) on how we can create a better and happier world with activism. I also call friends and family, write letters, work out, and watch TV. Fascinating, almost daily conversations with other inmates introduce me to a hitherto unknown world.

Doing disarmament actions brings appreciation from many people. At mail call I am thankful and envied by other inmates.