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Politics & sensationalism behind Swedish travesties of justice

By Jan Guillou. Published by Aftonbladet 23 September 2012.


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What's the worst travesty of justice in modern times in Sweden? The question isn't as easy to answer as some would like to believe. Thomas Quick has a record that's hard to beat: eight incorrect guilty verdicts. But Quick was the leading character in that drawn-out comedy. (Or was it a tragedy? Or was it both?)

Things turned out worse for the Enbom league, six innocent men who in 1952 were convicted as Soviet spies without a shred of tangible evidence. On the contrary: the prosecutor in their trial was not at all shy about introducing evidence known to be fabricated, and was cheered on by the Swedish media.

Today we can soberly admit how that went down, a complete travesty of justice carried out primarily for political motives. Those interested in the details of the case can begin with the latest book on the subject: 'Codename Michael' by Tomas Bresky, published by Ordfront in 2008.

The miscarriage of justice with the Enbom league was caused by politics more than anything else. When the verdict was announced in the Stockholm district court on 31 July 1952, Sweden was still wrapped in the convulsions of the crisis when two Swedish airplanes, one a spy plane, were shot down in the Baltic Sea. Given the national agitation at the time, both the court and the media saw it as their duty to render a guilty verdict and to work together to that end, regardless of whether the accused were actually guilty or not. Massi Svensson, Dagens Nyheter's (DN.se) leading criminal reporter, openly boasted in his memoirs published in 1972 of how he'd lied in the national interest.

So politics is one of the strong factors in creating a travesty of justice. The other factor is more commercial in nature.

As in the double travesty and the drawn out persecution of Olle Möller who was incorrectly convicted for murder in both 1939 and 1959 and, as a result of being stalked by both police and media, was close to being framed for further murders from 1955 and 1973.

Möller was a celebrity, an eleven times Swedish athletic champion. And when Aftonbladet's reporter Börje Heed tricked him into 'outing' himself, the publicity exploded and the media could thereafter, with Börje Heed leading the charge, gleefully lynch him in a fantastically successful increase in circulation for the tabloid. The latest book on this topic is 'Murderer in the People's Home' by Lena Ebervall and [Assange lawyer] Per E Samuelson, published by Piratförlaget in 2012.

The da Costa case, from 1984 on, was driven by both political and sensationalist forces. The wild story of how two pathologists supposedly dismembered and ate select parts of the cadaver of a prostitute made the headlines regularly.

From the beginning it was more sensationalism than politics - Expressen's reporter Leif Brännström created the monster that became known as The Dissector, a latter-day version of Jack the Ripper. Politics entered the picture later when social therapist Hanna Olsson wrote a book where she proposed a new politically nuanced form of trial evidence where courts could look at the invisible male power structure rather than traditional forms of 'patriarchic' evidence such as witnesses, fingerprints, and other silly antiquated things.

Olsson transmogrified the country's cultural writers, and soon there wasn't a single culture desk that didn't know everything about the ability of children to testify accurately and all the obsolete forms of bourgeois evidence. As an example of journalistic madness and lynching, the da Costa case is unique. The book about the case is equally unique: 'Death is a Man' by Per Lindeberg, published by Fischer & Co in 2008.

During the 1980s there were certain supposedly feminist 'sciences' that now in retrospect, now in a time of more reason, are irrevocably reminiscent of the witch trials of the 1600s.

One such 'science' was based on the concept of 'repressed memory' and was usually about rape in childhood. The rape victims - it was claimed the children repressed their memory, memory which could still be recovered by special 'memory therapists' (and that's how it started with Thomas Quick who was supposed to have forgot how he was forced to eat up his little brother Simon and therefore just had to compensate by becoming a serial killer). A related 'science', promoted by professor Eva Lundgren in Uppsala, was based on mapping out networks of satanic cannibals who were running rampant in Sweden. This madness was reported as serious news in all the media. An example: their intensive coverage of the police search for thirty children's bodies, the supposed victims of a satanic orgy, outside the town of Södertälje.

No one knows how many men were unjustly convicted of raping children who through 'memory therapy' were made to understand they'd been raped. But it can't be less than a dozen. Hannes Råstam was able to provide strong enough evidence in one case for the accused to get the case reopened and to be acquitted. But there's a hidden number behind that single case, a number representing innocent men who've done prison time for crimes that never took place.

Perhaps it's this latest case that qualifies as the biggest travesty of justice in modern times in Sweden. As you can see, there are many worthy nominees. And unfortunately there's always a decisive factor behind a travesty of justice, namely that the media do not do their job or even worse: jump in as cheerleaders for the lynching.

Additionally I think:

  • The 'declaration of victory' by supreme court justice Göran Lambertz, as many commenters online have pointed out, has to be compared to Baghdad Bob's proclamation.

    'The Quick resistance has been essentially destroyed. It took the better part of a month. Now for Phase Two!'

  • That same Lambertz was sacked from his job as chancellor for justice for sponsoring an investigation that showed that innocent people were sitting in Swedish prisons. He was replaced by Anna Skarhed who showed her gratefulness for the appointment by declaring that no innocent people were incarcerated in Swedish prisons.

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