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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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CRIME

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. 

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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.” 
 
 
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