Assault on Danish PM likely not 'politically motivated'

AFP , Saturday 8 Jun 2024

Danish authorities said Saturday that an attack on Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, which left her "shaken" and with a whiplash injury, was likely not "politically motivated".

Danish PM
File photo: Denmark s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen attends a ceremony at the Danish monument outside of Sainte Marie du Mont, Normandy, Thursday, June 6, 2024. AP

 

A 39-year-old Polish man, who was apprehended after hitting the prime minister on Friday evening, was remanded in custody until June 20 after appearing before a Copenhagen court, prosecutor Taruh Sekeroglu told reporters.

"It is not our guiding... hypothesis that there is a political motive here. But that is something that the police of course will investigate," Sekeroglu said.

Sekeroglu said the man was suspected of violence against a public servant and deemed a flight risk.

Frederiksen's office told AFP she had been taken to a hospital for a check-up after the attack in a Copenhagen square.

The assault caused a "minor whiplash injury", it said, adding that the prime minister was "otherwise safe but shaken by the incident" and her Saturday schedule had been cancelled.

Under the influence
 

During the hearing on Saturday, the prosecution presented a statement from a doctor describing the defendant as mentally unbalanced and under the influence, Danish media reported.

Broadcaster DR said police had described the man, who denied being guilty of a crime, as "probably both under the influence of substances and drunk" when arrested.

The broadcaster also reported that while in court the prosecutor asked if the man could remember what he was doing between 5:30 pm (1530 GMT) and 5:45 pm the day before.

"To be completely honest, then no, not much," the man replied, according to DR.

French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday became the latest European leader to denounce the attack as "unacceptable", in a statement on X.

"I strongly condemn this act and wish Mette Frederiksen a speedy recovery," Macron added.

Two witnesses, Marie Adrian and Anna Ravn, told newspaper BT they had seen Frederiksen arrive at the square while they were sitting at a nearby fountain, just before 6:00 pm on Friday.

"A man came by in the opposite direction and gave her a hard shove on the shoulder, causing her to fall to the side," the two women told the newspaper.

They added that while it was a "strong push", Frederiksen did not hit the ground.

They described the man as tall and slim and said he had tried to hurry away but had not gone far before being grabbed and pushed to the ground by men in suits.

'Surprised'
 

The attack was widely condemned by leading European politicians, including EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen, who said it was a "despicable act which goes against everything we believe and fight for in Europe".

"I was just surprised that was something that could happen," 45-year-old Dane Anna Liljegren told AFP in Copenhagen.

"I'm sure she has security," she added.

Another Dane, 25-year-old Frederik Bey, told AFP he thought it was "quite disturbing that things like that can happen in Denmark".

In 2019, Frederiksen became the country's youngest prime minister and kept the post after emerging victorious in the 2022 general election.

The incident follows a spate of attacks on politicians from across the political spectrum at work or on the campaign trail in Germany ahead of this week's EU elections -- with Danes headed to the polls for their vote on Sunday.

On May 15, Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico was shot four times at close range as he greeted supporters after a government meeting in the central town of Handlova.

Fico, who survived the assassination attempt, underwent two lengthy hospital surgeries.

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