The four men, aged 18 to 22, were on trial for torturing two rabbits to death in woodland and in a cellar in southern Stockholm a year ago. One of the rabbits was burned alive. The other animal was kicked to death while a dog was taunted into attacking it.
The incident was caught on a film seized by police during a house search in January, and shown in the Södertörn district courtroom last Thursday.
The film, broadcast by Sveriges Television (SVT) last Tuesday, shows how the laughing men tape the hind legs of the rabbit together, pour flammable liquid all over the defenceless animal and then set it alight. They then continue to pour the liquid on the burning creature until it burns to death.
Police have described the case as one of the most loathsome animal cruelty cases that they have ever had cause to investigate.
The Local reported last week that angry scenes greeted the opening of the trial with police forced to intervene to eject animal rights protesters from the courtroom.
The trial has also met an angry response in Swedish media and on the internet with posters on several community websites calling for the identities of the men to be made known and threats made against them.
Three of the accused admitted to the court that they had been at the locations when the alleged offences were committed. The purpose of the cruel episode is reported to have been to train the dog.
“I get severe anxiety when I think about it. I can’t understand that I was such an idiot,” one of the men said during the trial, according to the Aftonlbadet tabloid.
The fourth man denied all charges against him.