Sunday, June 23, 2024

Danish prime minister assaulted in central Copenhagen square

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Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen has been assaulted in a central Copenhagen square in the middle of the European election campaign.

The centre-left premier was “in shock” after the assault on Friday by a man on Kultorvet, one of Copenhagen’s main squares, her office said. A 39-year-old man was arrested shortly afterwards and charged with assault.

Prosecutors said on Saturday that the man, who needed an interpreter in court, used a clenched fist to push Frederiksen. He denied the charges.

The Danish prime minister suffered mild whiplash, according to her office, and as a result cancelled her last day of campaigning before Sunday’s elections to the European parliament.

“Denmark’s prime minister, Mette Frederiksen, was today assaulted and hit by a man at Kultorvet in Copenhagen. Mette is naturally shocked by the attack. I have to say, this shakes all of us who are close to her,” environment minister Magnus Heunicke wrote on social media platform X.

Politicians from across Denmark’s political spectrum rushed to condemn the attack.

“Shocking that someone attacks and hits our prime minister,” said Morten Løkkegaard, lead candidate in the European elections for the governing centre-right Liberal party.

“It is crucial for our democracy that we can debate regardless of political position . . . violence and assaults undermine the public debate and thus our democracy.”

Inger Støjberg, head of the far-right Denmark Democrats, said: “Democracy is vulnerable if we do not take care of it. It is completely reprehensible to resort to violence.”

Foreign leaders also condemned the assault. Ulf Kristersson, Sweden’s centre-right prime minister, said: “An attack on a democratically elected leader is also an attack on our democracy. Tonight, my thoughts and those of my family are with her.”

“Tonight’s assault on the Danish prime minister is appalling. Violence has no place in politics. Keep strong, Mette!” said Roberta Metsola, president of the European parliament.

The attack is the latest in a series of violent acts against European politicians recently. Slovakia’s Prime Minister Robert Fico was shot and seriously wounded last month, while several politicians in Germany have been assaulted in recent weeks.

Neighbouring Sweden has suffered particular political violence over the decades, with prime minister Olof Palme assassinated in 1986 and foreign minister Anna Lindh stabbed to death in 2003 before a referendum on adopting the euro.

Frederiksen was seen last year as a leading candidate to replace Jens Stoltenberg as secretary-general of Nato but failed to receive the approval of US President Joe Biden. More recently, she has been perceived as a favourite for a leading job in Brussels.

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