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Manga images ‘not child porn’: Supreme Court

Japanese manga comics depicting children in sexual poses are not child pornography, Sweden's Supreme Court has ruled, overturning a high-profile conviction of a Swedish translator.

Manga images 'not child porn': Supreme Court

In a ruling issued on Friday, the court acquitted Simon Lundström, who had been found guilty of child pornography crimes by two lower courts before appealing his case to Sweden’s highest court.

“I’m obviously very relieved, in part because it makes life easier for me personally, but most of all I’m generally relieved for Sweden as a whole,” Lundström told the TT news agency in an email.

“It would have been very hard for me to relate to Sweden as a country if it turned out to be a place that prohibited certain expressions of the imagination.”

According to the Supreme Court’s ruling, the drawings are pornographic and they do portray children.

However, because the cartoons represent imaginary figures there is no way they could be mistaken for real children.

“The criminalization of possession of the drawings would otherwise exceed what is necessary with regard to the purpose which has led to the restriction on freedom of expression and freedom of information,” the court said in a statement.

Lundström, described by Swedish media as a top manga expert, was found guilty by two lower courts of having 39 drawings portraying figures in sexual poses stored on the hard drive of his computer.

In his initial trial, he explained that he had retrieved the pictures in order to stay up to date with the latest developments in the Japanese comic genre.

A district court fined him 25,000 kronor ($3,500) but an appeals court lowered the sum to 5,600 kronor.

During the Supreme Court trial, the images were shown on large screens in the courtroom. The pastel-coloured pictures showed children in different states of undress.

The depicted persons have large eyes and many other features that are characteristic for manga-characters. They are both posing for the viewer and taking part in different sexual activities.

Lundström’s attorney, Leif Silbersky, expressed his satisfaction with the ruling.

“It’s heartening that common sense has prevailed. The Supreme Court has an excellent way of cutting through the formalities and coming to the right conclusion. The ruling is very good in its entirety,” he told the TT news agency.

In its ruling, the Supreme Court did however find that one of the 39 images possessed by Lundström could be considered to depict child pornography as it was sufficiently realistic.

But the court ruled that possession of the image was nevertheless defensible and as a result acquitted Lundström for possession of that image as well.

TT/The Local/dl

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ART

Stockholm’s giant penis mural to be covered up after complaints

A giant blue penis painted on a Stockholm apartment building is to be covered up after just one week, the company which owns the building has said.

Stockholm's giant penis mural to be covered up after complaints
The penis was painted in blue with a yellow background, perhaps reflecting Sweden's national colours. Photo: Photo: Hugo Röjgård/Graffitifrämjandet
Atrium Ljungberg said it had come to the decision after receiving a barrage of complaints about the five-story high depiction of a bulging erection.  
 
“Of course we care about artistic freedom, but at the same time we must respect the opinion of our closest neighbours,” Camilla Klint, the company's marketing head, said in a statement. 
 
“By letting it remain for a short period, we are offering anyone who's interested a chance to experience the work.” 
 
The company said that it had been given no prior warning that a giant penis was about to appear on one of its blocks. 
 
“On Wednesday morning, April 11th, we saw  Kollektivet Livet's new work for the first time, at exactly the same moment as all the other people who live on Kungsholmen did,” it said in its statement.  
 
Under their arrangement, the artist collective had total artistic freedom over the works it commissioned for the wall, at Kronobergsgatan 35 on the central Stockholm island of Kungsholmen.  
 
The decision will come as a disappointment to the artist Carolina Falkholt. Her first giant penis painting, which she plastered on a wall in the Lower East Side of Manhattan in December, lasted only a few days. 
 
She said on Wednesday that she expected her native Swedes to be more receptive. 
 
Atrium Ljungberg did acknowledge that many appreciated the painting. 
 
“Some people are positive about the work and see it as playing an important part in the debate around sexuality, the body and gender,” the company wrote.
 
“Others, particularly neighbours, have received the work less well, and experience it as offensive.”
 
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