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"Battle of Gothenburg" police chief acquitted

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18:21 CET+01:00
Former Gothenburg police chief, Håkan Jaldung, has been acquitted by the Court of Appeal of charges surrounding his actions at the infamous EU summit in the city in June 2001. Jaldung was previously acquitted by the Gothenburg City Court in February this year. He was charged with the unlawful detention of 650 people at the Hvitfeldtska gymnasium school.

The appeal was brought by the Justice Ombudsman, Claes Eklundh. His senior prosecutor, Hans Lindberg, claimed that Jaldung didn't merely cordon off an area, but in doing so deliberately and unlawfully confined hundreds of people. He also claimed that Jaldung took the unlawful step of ordering the arrest of 454 people remaining in the school later in the day.

Jaldung cited paragraph 23 of the Police Act in his defence and claimed that the security situation and risk of violence against people and property justified his actions.

Lindberg was taken aback by the court's decision and is considering a further appeal:

"I'm surprised about the outcome because we obviously expected a conviction," he said afterwards.

Hvitfeldtska gymnasium is a centrally located school in Gothenburg, which city authorities had assigned to groups of demonstrators and activists as a place to stay during the EU summit, which was also being attended by USA's President Bush.

Jaldung was the commanding officer for the policing of the event and both he and the Swedish security service, Säpo, received intelligence that violent disturbances were being planned from the school. Säpo put the risk of "terrorist" activity at 4 on a scale of 5.

In a pre-emptive measure on 14 June, Jaldung surrounded the school with 300-400 police officers. Later on, he built an 800 metre wall of shipping containers round part of the school area.

After negotiations with activist groups, the police agreed to begin letting out those inside the school as long as they were allowed to search the individuals and their bags. Around 200 came out before there were violent attempts from inside and outside to break the cordon.

Police then stormed the school and arrested 454 people. Most of them were released without being interviewed. This was the first incident at the summit, which later saw widespread rioting and the 'trashing' of Gothenburg's parade street, Kungsportsavenyn.

The appeal hearing concentrated largely on whether the people in the school were actually confined.

During proceedings, Jaldung told the court: "They were blocked off, not locked in."

The court's reasoning was far from clear, however. In the decision, it wrote:

"The fact that those inside the cordoned off area could not leave that area without having to submit to a body search implies according to this court that they were detained against their will."

However, the court still supported Jaldung's actions:

"Jaldung has support from paragraph 23 of the Police Act concerning cordoning and evacuation procedures. The detention has therefore not been unlawful."

But the court still left room for uncertainty, as it was unsure whether the law can be used to detain people because of the risk of a crime being committed somewhere else. The various statements made in the written decision surprised Lindberg and leave open the prospect of the Justice Ombudsman lodging a further appeal.

"I'm confused about the court's testing of evidence and the legal questions involved.... Surely they must have some idea of what the law means."

Sources: Dagens Nyheter, Svenska Dagbladet, Sydsvenskan, Göteborgs Posten

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