”This case has changed the way I view humanity,” said prosecutor Niclas Eltenius to news agency TT.
The only man, 42-year-old Lars Skoglund, is considered the ringleader distributing large quantities of pornographic material featuring children to the women, who are aged between 38 and 70, according to the charge sheet.
When Skoglund was arrested last September, he was in the possession of 1,181 still shots and 40 films considered child pornography.
“One hundred and fifteen of the pictures and 37 of the films show children who are either very young, who are the victims of violence or coercion or being used in a particularly ruthless manner,” the charge sheet read.
Skoglund, who could face up to six years behind bars if found guilty of aggravated child pornography crimes, appears to have come in contact with the 23 women on internet chat rooms and gradually convinced them to accept files containing child pornography.
He “has tested the limits, how far the others would go. He first goes from (chatting about) sex to sex with excrements, sex with animals and after a while … sex with children,” Eltenius told journalists at a press conference in the central Swedish town of Falun broadcasted on public radio.
A number of the women said that they had not wanted to download the files, but the prosecution claims transcripts of their chat room conversations with Skoglund show they willingly participated in the exchange.
Skoglund had saved some 5,000 chat logs dating back to 2004 that are being used as evidence in the case.
The women, several of whom had short-lived sexual relationships with the 42-year-old, did not have large quantities of the illicit material in their possession — ranging between six and 71 files each.
They were therefore only charged with the lower level of child pornography crimes, Eltenius said, pointing out that “this can carry a penalty of up to two years in prison.”
But according to the prosecution the women have been active in the sharing of the material.
“The women have encouraged the man in his pursuit of child pornography,” said Eltenius.
The trial will start with the prosecution’s opening statement, where Eltenius will go through the charges. After that a police officer and an IT-expert will be heard.
Skoglund will be the only defendant present in the courtroom on Tuesday, as the women won’t be heard until next week.
The trial will go on for ten days.