Swedish filmmakers face retrial after appeals court throws out verdict

A Swedish appeals court has thrown out a lower court's acquittal of two documentary filmmakers accused of violating the sanctity of the wreck of the Estonia ferry.

Swedish filmmakers face retrial after appeals court throws out verdict
The front section of the passenger ferry Estonia being lifted from the sea in 1994. Photo: AP Photo/Lehtikuva, Jaako Avikainen

The Estonia ferry sank in the Baltic Sea in 1994, killing 852 people in one of the 20th century’s worst maritime disasters.

After deciding not to salvage the wreck, Sweden, Estonia and Finland agreed in 1995 to designate it a final resting place and make it illegal to disturb the site.

In 2019, a film crew sent a remote-operated submersible to the ship while filming a documentary that aired the following year, revealing a massive hole in the ship’s hull and casting doubt on the findings of an official investigation into the sinking.

The Gothenburg district court found in February 2021 that the documentary’s director Henrik Evertsson and deep-sea analyst Linus Andersson – both Swedes – had committed actions punishable under the so-called “Estonia Law”.

However, it ruled they could not be held accountable since they were on a German-flagged ship in international waters at the time.

While several countries have signed on to the 1995 accord, Germany has not.

But the Göta Court of Appeal on Tuesday sent the case back to the lower court for a retrial. It argued that “the Estonia Law does apply” because the filmmakers are Swedish, even though the dives were conducted from a German boat.

The two could face a fine or up to two years in prison.

The original inquiry into the disaster concluded that it was caused by the bow door of the ship being wrenched open in heavy seas, allowing water to gush into the car deck.

Experts however told the filmmakers that only a massive external force would be strong enough to cause the rupture, raising questions about what really happened.

Survivors and relatives of those killed have fought for over two decades for a fuller investigation, though the countries involved have been reluctant to re-examine the issue.

Following the documentary, the laws banning dives were amended in order to allow a re-examination of the wreck.

In July 2021, Sweden and Estonia opened a fresh investigation.

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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.