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Triple murderer granted pardon

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Triple murderer granted pardon
10:26 CET+01:00
A triple murderer who was jailed for life in 1989 for killing three people in a graveyard in northern Sweden has been granted a pardon by Finland's Court of Appeal.

Juha Valjakkala, who has changed his name to Nikita Joakim Fouganthine, is to be released from prison on July 1st 2008.

The Helsinki court agreed to release Valjakkala on a suspended sentence more than 19 years after he began serving his life sentence. He has sought a pardon on a number of previous occasion and has escaped or attempted to escape from prison at least five times.

Valjakkala, who has changed his name to Nikita Joakim Fouganthine, shot and killed a man and his 15-year-old son and stabbed the man's wife to death in a graveyard in Åmsele, near Skellefteå, in 1988.

The Finn and his girlfriend were arrested a week later in Denmark. He was sentenced to life imprisonment and deportation. His girlfriend was sentenced to two years jail for serious assault.

Church warden Dan-Axel Karlsson was one of those who witnessed the bodies being found at the cemetery in Åmsele.

"It's not good that he was pardoned. But what can one do?" he told TT.

According to Karlsson, the murders are not talked about so often in the town.

"People want to forget about it. But it's possible people will start talking again now," he said.

A decision in October 2006 by the Finnish Supreme Court to allow the option of pardoning Valjakkala caused dismay in Sweden.

Sweden's justice minister, Beatrice Ask, declared at the time that she was upset by the Finnish court's decision. She said the decision was particularly puzzling because Valjakkala had escaped on several occasions and committed further crimes and tried to escape prison.

But author and criminologist Leif GW Persson said that the decision was "very much expected".

"When he gets out in the summer he will have spent 20 years behind bars, which is the standard in Finland for crimes of a very serious nature. It would be difficult for Sweden to push for any other outcome - neighbourly relations come at a price," he said.

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