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CRIME

Åke Green cleared over gay sermon

Åke Green, the Swedish pentecostalist pastor sentenced to one month in prison for a sermon in which he condemned homosexuality has been acquitted by the Supreme Court in Stockholm.

Green, from Borgholm on the Baltic Sea island of Öland, said he felt “relieved” by the verdict, in which he was cleared of the crime of ‘agitation against minority groups’.

“I was prepared for the fact that I could be acquitted, but also that I could be convicted,” he told news agency TT from his church.

Gay right groups have condemned the verdict, saying that it makes a nonsense of the law.

“It is extremely serious when the church is turned into a free zone for agitation,” said Sören Andersson, chairman of gay rights group RFSL.

“We are now going to face increased religious agitation from extreme right-wing Christian groups that use the church as a forum to spread their message of hatred.”

The Christian Democratic Party’s leader Göran Hägglund welcomed the verdict, saying that it is not the role of the courts to decide how the Bible should be interpreted.

But Liberal MP Birgitta Rydberg, a Christian, said that Åke Green would probably go to hell when he dies.

“That’s where you go if you call yourself a Christian and defy the Christian message of love.”

Green said the judgment was important for him and for his fellow preachers.

“We can now feel more free to preach the word of God,” he proclaimed, but said there would be no more sermons from him about homosexuality.

“Everyone knows where I stand on that question,” he said.

In a written judgment, the Supreme Court noted that Green’s comments went beyond what could be considered an objective and sound discussion about gay people. Åke Green deliberately spread the comments in his sermon in the knowledge that they would be seen as offensive.

But the court decided that a conviction would not be upheld by the European Court. Several comparable cases have resulted in acquittals in the European Court, Supreme Court chairman Johan Munck told TT.

“Another reason for the verdict is that the sermon was held in front of his own congregation. Still, I don’t believe that this gives the green light for similar sermons,” Munck said.

When all the circumstances surrounding Green’s comments were taken into account, it is clear that they did not consitute hate speech, the judgment said.

This included the most radical parts of his sermon, in which “sexual abnormalities” were described as a tumour. Seen in the context of the rest of his sermon, they could not be seen to incite or condone hatred towards gay people, the court decided.

Green had said, among other things, that “sexually twisted people will even rape animals”.

Green and his lawyer Percy Bratt argued that these comments were simply a literal interpretation of the Bible.

Prosecutor Stefan Johansson argued that Green had gone much further than the Bible, and had expressed his own views.

Kalmar District Court originally sentenced Green to one month in prison, but the Göta Appeals Court overturned that judgment.

Amina Ek, director of anti-discrimination organisation Centrum mot Rasism, warned that Green’s acquittal could lead to increased racism and homophobia.

“Hate crimes are increasing, especially those targeted against LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual) people,” she said, arguing that it is often the same groups that spread hate propaganda on the internet against Jews, Roma, Muslims and gay people.

RFSL’s Sören Andersson said that the judgment showed the need for the law to be strengthened.

He dismissed those who argued that instead of convicting Åke Green, homophobic opinions should be confronted in debate.

“What you’re forgetting is that RFSL, among others, have been doing this for a long time.”

“Agitation and threats, such as those uttered by Åke Green, limit LGBT people’s rights and opportunities to participate in debate.”

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TT/The Local

CRIME

Sweden breaks yearly record for fatal shootings

A man was shot to death in Kristianstad, Skåne, late on Thursday night. He is the 48th person to be shot dead in Sweden this year, meaning that the previous record for most fatal shootings in one year set in 2020 has now been broken.

Sweden breaks yearly record for fatal shootings

“Unfortunately we can’t say more than that he’s in his twenties and we have no current suspects,” duty officer Mikael Lind told TT newswire.

According to police statistics, this most recent deadly shooting means that 48 people have been shot to death in 2022, meaning that Sweden has broken a new record for deadly shootings per year.

Earlier this week, Sweden’s police chief Anders Thornberg said that this number is likely to rise even higher before the end of the year.

“It looks like we’re going to break the record this year,” he told TT on Tuesday. “That means – if it continues at the same pace – around 60 deadly shootings.”

“If it ends up being such a large increase that would be very unusual,” said Manne Gerell, criminiologist at Malmö University.

“We saw a large increase between 2017 and 2018, and we could see the same now, as we’re on such low figures in Sweden. But it’s still worrying that it’s increasing by so much over such a short time period,” he said.

There also seems to be an upwards trend in the number of shootings overall during 2022. 273 shootings had occured by September 1st this year, compared with 344 for the whole of 2021 and 379 for the whole of 2020.

If shootings continue at this rate for the rest of 2022, it is likely that the total number for the year would be higher than 2021 and 2020. There are, however, fewer injuries.

“The majority of shootings cause no injuries, but this year, mortality has increased substantially,” Gerell explained. “There aren’t more people being shot, but when someone is shot, they’re more likely to die.”

Thursday’s shooting took place in Kristianstad, but it’s only partially true that deadly gun violence is becoming more common in smaller cities.

“It’s moved out somewhat to smaller cities, but we’re overexaggerating that effect,” Gerell said. “We’re forgetting that there have been shootings in other small cities in previous years.”

A report from the Crime Prevention Council (Brå) presented last spring showed that Sweden, when compared with 22 different countries in Europe, was the only one with an upwards trend for deadly shootings.

Temporary increases can be seen during some years in a few countries, but there were no countries which showed such a clear increase as Sweden has seen for multiple years in a row, according to Brå.

The Swedish upwards trend for deadly gun violence began in the beginning of the 2000s, but the trend took off in 2013 and has continued to increase since.

Eight of ten deadly shootings take place in criminal environments, the study showed. The Swedish increase has taken place in principle only among the 20-29 year old age group.

When police chief Anders Thornberg was asked how the trend can be broken, he said that new recruitments are one of the most important factors.

“The most important thing is to break recruitment, make sure we can listen encrypted and that we can get to the profits of crime in a better way,” he said.

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