Anti-Israel protest staged at Sweden tennis match

MALMO, Sweden Sat Mar 7, 2009 1:49pm EST

1 of 10. A protester chants slogans near a banner reading: 'Boycott Israel' during an anti-Israel march in Malmo March 7, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Bob Strong

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MALMO, Sweden (Reuters) - Anti-Israeli protesters clashed with riot police outside an Israeli-Swedish Davis Cup tennis match in Sweden on Saturday, but did not break through police lines.

Due to security concerns, the three-day match is being played in an empty stadium in this southwestern port city, which has a large immigrant population.

Several hundred left-wing militants carrying banners saying "Turn left, smash right," and "Boycott Israel" joined a peaceful pro-Palestinian demonstration by about 6,000 people.

About 200 of the militants began pelting police with stones, fireworks and paint bombs, Reuters witnesses said, while organizers of the official demonstration shouted at the masked protesters not to use violence against the authorities.

Police said they arrested eight protesters and detained more than 100, most of whom were released after identity checks.

Malmo, which is Sweden's third largest city and is ruled by a left-of-center coalition, was heavily criticized by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) and by Israeli players for its decision to close the stadium to the public.

Around 1,000 police officers have cordoned off a large area around the stadium to prevent protesters from getting in.

Sweden took a 2-1 lead over Israel on Saturday when Robert Lindstedt and Simon Aspelin won the doubles match over Andy Ram and Amir Hadad. The best-of-five tie will be wrapped up on Sunday.

Tensions between Israel and its Arab neighbors have been heightened by a three-week Israeli offensive in the Gaza strip which began on December 27 and killed about 1,300 Palestinians and 14 Israelis.

(Additional reporting by Oliver Grassman; Reporting by Kim McLaughlin; Editing by Charles Dick)

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