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CRIME

Man on trial over death threats sent to Swedish ministers

The trial of a 42-year-old man charged with having sent threatening letters to Swedish ministers and other high-profile figures starts today.

Man on trial over death threats sent to Swedish ministers
File photo of a letter box in Sweden. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

The man, from western Sweden, is also suspected of the attempted murder of four individuals in the UK who received a mail bomb he allegedly sent to bitcoin selling company Cryptopay in London last year. His computer showed he had searched for information on how to build explosives.

He goes on trial at Stockholm District Court today accused of having sent letters containing verbal death threats and powder – which later turned out to be harmless – to 26 people, including 21 cabinet ministers.

Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist, Social Affairs Minister Annika Strandhäll, Education Minister Gustav Fridolin and Justice and Interior Minister Morgan Johansson were among those who received the letters, sent to their home addresses, with the words “you will soon be dead”.

He was arrested at Stockholm's Arlanda Airport in May after arriving on a flight from Thailand.

“I argue that he intended to cause serious fear to those who received the letters. The crimes are aggravated because in each envelope there was a powder which appeared to be toxic and explosive,” prosecutor Eva Wintzell said in a statement earlier this month. “The threats to elected representatives are particularly serious because those are threats directed against democracy.”

Sweden is one of the world's most transparent nations, where tax information and home addresses can easily be accessed. Elected officials can often be seen out in public running errands and going about their daily lives, sometimes without security, although this is becoming less common for senior figures.

Sweden's former Foreign Minister Anna Lindh died in 2003 after she was stabbed in broad daylight at a Stockholm department store without a bodyguard present. And former Prime Minister Olof Palme was shot dead while walking home from a Stockholm cinema in 1986. His murder has not been solved.

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CRIME

Sweden breaks yearly record for fatal shootings

A man was shot to death in Kristianstad, Skåne, late on Thursday night. He is the 48th person to be shot dead in Sweden this year, meaning that the previous record for most fatal shootings in one year set in 2020 has now been broken.

Sweden breaks yearly record for fatal shootings

“Unfortunately we can’t say more than that he’s in his twenties and we have no current suspects,” duty officer Mikael Lind told TT newswire.

According to police statistics, this most recent deadly shooting means that 48 people have been shot to death in 2022, meaning that Sweden has broken a new record for deadly shootings per year.

Earlier this week, Sweden’s police chief Anders Thornberg said that this number is likely to rise even higher before the end of the year.

“It looks like we’re going to break the record this year,” he told TT on Tuesday. “That means – if it continues at the same pace – around 60 deadly shootings.”

“If it ends up being such a large increase that would be very unusual,” said Manne Gerell, criminiologist at Malmö University.

“We saw a large increase between 2017 and 2018, and we could see the same now, as we’re on such low figures in Sweden. But it’s still worrying that it’s increasing by so much over such a short time period,” he said.

There also seems to be an upwards trend in the number of shootings overall during 2022. 273 shootings had occured by September 1st this year, compared with 344 for the whole of 2021 and 379 for the whole of 2020.

If shootings continue at this rate for the rest of 2022, it is likely that the total number for the year would be higher than 2021 and 2020. There are, however, fewer injuries.

“The majority of shootings cause no injuries, but this year, mortality has increased substantially,” Gerell explained. “There aren’t more people being shot, but when someone is shot, they’re more likely to die.”

Thursday’s shooting took place in Kristianstad, but it’s only partially true that deadly gun violence is becoming more common in smaller cities.

“It’s moved out somewhat to smaller cities, but we’re overexaggerating that effect,” Gerell said. “We’re forgetting that there have been shootings in other small cities in previous years.”

A report from the Crime Prevention Council (Brå) presented last spring showed that Sweden, when compared with 22 different countries in Europe, was the only one with an upwards trend for deadly shootings.

Temporary increases can be seen during some years in a few countries, but there were no countries which showed such a clear increase as Sweden has seen for multiple years in a row, according to Brå.

The Swedish upwards trend for deadly gun violence began in the beginning of the 2000s, but the trend took off in 2013 and has continued to increase since.

Eight of ten deadly shootings take place in criminal environments, the study showed. The Swedish increase has taken place in principle only among the 20-29 year old age group.

When police chief Anders Thornberg was asked how the trend can be broken, he said that new recruitments are one of the most important factors.

“The most important thing is to break recruitment, make sure we can listen encrypted and that we can get to the profits of crime in a better way,” he said.

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