As the closed-door hearing got underway on Monday morning at the Gothenburg District Court, a number of young people had also turned up outside the courthouse, but no disturbances were reported.
The two suspects, aged 15 and 16, are charged with aggravated defamation for setting up an account on the picture-sharing website Instagram that encouraged other users to publish photographs of “sluts” alongside claims of their sexual activities.
The 15-year-old girl has admitted to setting up the account. However, her 16-year-old accomplice denies having committed any crime in connection with the incident, which left Sweden’s second-largest city on edge for several days in December 2012.
“She doesn’t see that she was at all involved in the whole thing. But she knew what her girlfriend was up to. That’s a pivotal question for the court as to whether she is responsible or not,” the 16-year-old’s lawyer, Claes Östlund, told the TT news agency during a midday break in the proceedings.
According to Östlund, his client has been composed throughout Monday’s hearing, where the first of 45 plaintiffs involved in the case gave testimony about how they were victimized by posts made to the Instagram account, something he compared to a bulletin board.
“People send things in to the bulletin board and then people pass the message along,” he explained.
The girls charged in the case are accused of spreading insulting and inaccurate information which originally came from others who sent the “tips” to the Instragram account.
“The actual defamation comes from people who provided the tips and sent in the information,” said Östlund.
Prior to the lunchtime break, plaintiffs had started to answer questions and tell the court about how they were labeled as “whores”.
One of the victims, a 17-year-old girl, told TT that she was relieved to see the suspects in court and has also found solace in meeting others who had also been defamed via the account.
“At first I was nervous, but now I feel relieved,” she said of speaking in court.
She added that her rage of being bullied online had changed as the trial proceeded.
“Now I just feel sorry for them,” she said of the two suspects.
Another 18-year-old victim remained angry at the two suspects, one of whom she knew personally.
“They should have known that this wasn’t only going to be seen by a few people,” she told the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper, rejecting the defence that the offending remarks originally came from others.
“They are the ones who asked for ‘tips’,” the 18-year-old added.