Swedish journalist sentenced for ‘smuggling’ refugee boy

A Swedish journalist and two colleagues were found guilty of people-smuggling by Sweden's highest court, but their sentence was reduced from earlier courts.

Swedish journalist sentenced for 'smuggling' refugee boy
Swedish journalist Fredrik Önnevall. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Journalist Fredrik Önnevall, who works for public broadcaster SVT, and his cameraman and interpreter were given a suspended sentence and 40 'day fines', as well as 75 hours' community service. This was a reduced sentence from earlier court rulings.

“What I'm positive about is that they changed the penalty. Not because community service plays a role in this, but it sends an important signal that they have understood that we had the goal of helping a boy who was in an emergency situation,” Önnevall said to the TT newswire.

Önnevall and his colleagues met the boy in the spring of 2014 when they were making a documentary for Swedish public broadcaster SVT about the reaction of Europe's nationalist parties to the migrant influx.

Their legal team argued in court that they accepted no money from the boy and had served only as his travel companions. In its judgment on Thursday the Supreme Court found that the trio had “the closest humanitarian reasons” behind their actions and had not planned the trip in advance.

The child has since been granted permanent residence in Sweden and has started school.

Önnevall said he was still in contact with the boy, who now speaks Swedish, and that he has never regretted his decision.

READ ALSO: Journalist 'confident' he was right to help refugee boy

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Swedish Green leader: ‘Easter riots nothing to do with religion or ethnicity’

The riots that rocked Swedish cities over the Easter holidays were nothing to do with religion or ethnicity, but instead come down to class, the joint leader of Sweden's Green Party has told The Local in an interview.

Swedish Green leader: 'Easter riots nothing to do with religion or ethnicity'

Ahead of a visit to the school in Rosengård that was damaged in the rioting, Märta Stenevi said that neither the Danish extremist Rasmus Paludan, who provoked the riots by burning copies of the Koran, nor those who rioted, injuring 104 policemen, were ultimately motivated by religion. 

“His demonstration had nothing to do with religion or with Islam. It has everything to do with being a right extremist and trying to to raise a lot of conflict between groups in Sweden,” she said of Paludan’s protests. 

“On the other side, the police have now stated that there were a lot of connections to organised crime and gangs, who see this as an opportunity to raise hell within their communities.”

Riots broke out in the Swedish cities of Malmö, Stockholm, Norrköping, Linköping and Landskrona over the Easter holidays as a result of Paludan’s tour of the cities, which saw him burn multiple copies of the Koran, the holy book of Islam. 


More than 100 police officers were injured in the riots, sparking debates about hate-crime legislation and about law and order. 

According to Stenevi, the real cause of the disorder is the way inequality has increased in Sweden in recent decades. 

“If you have big chasms between the rich people and poor people in a country, you will also have a social upheaval and social disturbance. This is well-documented all across the world,” she says. 
“What we have done for the past three decades in Sweden is to create a wider and wider gap between those who have a lot and those who have nothing.” 

The worst way of reacting to the riots, she argues, is that of Sweden’s right-wing parties. 
“You cannot do it by punishment, by adding to the sense of outsider status, you have to start working on actually including people, and that happens through old-fashioned things such as education, and a proper minimum income, to lift people out of their poverty, not to keep them there.”

This, she says, is “ridiculous”, when the long-term solution lies in doing what Sweden did to end extreme inequality at the start of the 20th century, when it created the socialist folkhem, or “people’s home”. 

“It’s easy to forget that 100 to 150 years ago, Sweden was a developing country, with a huge class of poor people with no education whatsoever. And we did this huge lift of a whole nation. And we can do this again,” she says. “But it needs resources, it needs political will.”