The decision by the court of appeal for Lower Norrland in Sundsvall cited the Supreme Court ruling in the case of Pentacostalist pastor Åke Green. Green was found not guilty of the same crime, the Supreme Court deciding that the Swedish law was in conflict with religious freedom clauses in the European Convention on Human Rights.
Chief Prosecutor Sven-Erik Alhem, who is responsible for prosecution of hate crime in Sweden, said that the boundaries of what people could say about gay people had been pushed back.
But, cautioned Alhem, “it is by no means open season to express hatred, disdain or threats against homosexuals. If you make serious threats or threaten to kill then you have clearly gone over the line of what is legal.”
Prosecutor Christer Sammens says he has reservations about the judgment.,
“I ask whether it is right to draw a parallel between what is said in a sermon in a church with support of laws on freedom of religion and what a racist organisation writes in a flyer. I will examine the ruling before I decide whether to request a hearing in the Supreme Court,” Sammens told TT.
Alhem says he will also discuss with the prosecutor general the possibilities of taking the case to the Supreme Court, but said he wanted first to wait for Christer Sammens’ decision.
The four men, who come from the Sundsvall area, distributed leaflets containing attacks on homosexuals outside a school in Söderhamn in December last year.
Seven men were prosecuted at Bollnäs District Court in June, and four were convicted. Two were sentenced to two months in prison; the other two were fined and put on probation. The convictions were appealed by the prosecutor, who wanted tougher sentences, and by the four convicted men.
The court noted that the flyers contained such gross attacks on gay people that they constituted a crime under Swedish law, but citing the Green verdict the court noted that the Supreme Court had given precedence to European rules on freedom of speech.