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CRIME

Triple murderer granted pardon

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.

Triple murderer granted pardon

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.

CRIME

Swedish terror attacker sentenced to psychiatric care

A court has sentenced the far-right extremist Theodor Engström to psychiatric care for the knife attack he carried out at the Almedalen political festival this summer.

Swedish terror attacker sentenced to psychiatric care

The Gotland district court found the 33-year-old Engström guilty of murdering the psychiatrist Ing-Marie Wieselgren, but did not agree that the murder counted as a terror attack.

It did find him guilty, however, of “planning a terror attack”, for his preparations to murder the Centre Party’s leader, Annie Lööf. 

“The murdered woman had a significant role [in society], a murder is always serious, and this had consequences both for Almedalen Week and for society more broadly,” the judge Per Sundberg, said at a press conference. 

The judge Per Sundberg announces the sentence on Theodor Engström on December 6th. Photo: Karl Melander/TT

But he said that the court judged that Sweden’s terror legislation was too restrictively drafted for her murder to count as a terror offence. 

“Despite Ing-Marie Wieselgren’s well-attested position within psychiatry, the court considers that her position as national coordinator at the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions is not such that her murder can in itself be considered to have damaged Sweden. The act cannot as a result be classified as a terrorist crime on those grounds.” 

The court ruled that Engström’s crimes deserved Sweden’s most severe sentence, a life sentence in prison, but found that due to his disturbed mental state he should instead receive “psychiatric care with a special test for release”. 

In its judgement, the court said that an examination by forensic psychiatrists had found both that there were “medical reasons” why Engström should be transferred into a closed psychiatric facility and that “his insight into the meaning of his actions and his ability to adjust his actions according to such insight were at the very least severely diminished”. 

It said that under Swedish law, a court could send someone to prison who was in need of psychiatric care only if there were “special reasons” to do so. 

“The court considers that it has not been shown that Theodor Engström’s need of psychiatric care is so limited that there is a special reason for a prison sentence,” it ruled. 

Lööf wrote on Instagram that the judgement was “a relief”. 

“For me personally, it was a relief when the judgement came,” she wrote. “Engström has also been judged guilty of ‘preparation for a terror attack through preparation for murder’. This means that the the court is taking the threat towards democracy and towards politicians as extremely serious.”

The fact that the court has decided that Engström’s care should have a “special test for release” means that he cannot be discharged from the closed psychiatric hospital or ward where he is treated without a court decision. 

The court must rule both that the mental disorder that led to the crime has abated to the extent that there is no risk of further crimes, and that he has no other mental disorders that might require compulsory psychiatric care. The care has to be reassessed every six months. 

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