War crimes suspect lectures future police officers

Seven years ago Jackie Arklöv shot two policemen dead in the town of Malexander. Now he is lecturing on the subject to police students who visit him in prison.

“The first time it felt a bit crazy considering what I’ve done,” he said in an interview with Swedish news agency TT.

Next week he Arklöv due to meet some of the prisoners of war who he is accused of assaulting and torturing as a mercenary soldier in the Balkans in 1993. Arklöv is the first person in Sweden to be prosecuted for war crimes and will appear in court on Friday.

But speaking from Kumla prison, he said he now considers himself to be a changed person.

“In a way I’m glad I’m in here. Otherwise I never would have come to this realisation,” he said.

Arklöv has admitted his crimes and is seen as something of a model prisoner. The Exit Project at Stockholm’s Fryshuset has, he says, helped him to distance himself from his nazi ideas. He has lectured to small groups of students from the Swedish National Police Academy on his history.

“It’s part of the training to meet someone who has had a repressive relationship with the police,” said Christer Nyberg at the Academy.

Arklöv himself considers it strange that he was a nazi.

“You just have to look in a mirror,” he said.

He described his former ideals as a distasteful mishmash of hate and anger, exclusion and conflict, and a strong interest in military matters focusing on the army of the Third Reich. From that, he said, it was a small step to nazism.

But now he is attempting to create a new identity as a social science researcher. He only requires two more terms of study before earning his bachelors degree.

“I want to do a doctorate in sociology and learn to understand current phenomena by learning from history,” said Arklöv.

He said that he thinks about Malexander every day.

“What I was scared me. I reacted first and thought later. I don’t want to be that sort of person,” Arklöv told TT’s reporter.

But is it possible for one of Sweden’s most notorious criminals to become a better person? Experts are divided on the subject.

Kennet Gustavsson, temporary head of criminal care at Kumla, is sceptical. It could be that Arklöv sees this as the only way of having his life sentence cut short, he said. A policeman who knew the ‘old Arklöv’ said that he is just a soldier who follows orders. Now the order is to sort himself out and that is what he is doing.

Katja Wåhlström, Arklöv’s contact person at Exit, believes his good intentions and describes him as honest. Her view is supported by Kumla’s priest, Truls Bernhold, who advises Arklöv in the prison chapel.

“It’s a real, deep change. He has good self-awareness,” said Bernhold.

But Astrid Gladh, mother of Robert Karlström, one of the policemen murdered at Malexander, said that Arklöv would revert to a life of crime. She can never forgive him, she said.

On Friday Jackie Arklöv will appear in the high security courtroom in Stockholm distric court. He was indicted in the summer for crimes against international law. Arklöv was a mercenary soldier in a Croatian militia in the conflict and was sentenced by a court in Mostar in 1995 to 13 years in jail for war crimes. The sentence was reduced to eight years by the supreme court in Sarajevo.

But he was released after a year as part of a prisoner exchange.

When Arklöv returned to Sweden in 1996 he was arrested again, but freed due to a lack of witness evidence. The case was reopened in 2004.