Gothenburg, June 2001: report on the trials
source: Jansen & Janssen (Netherlands)
The after-effects of the EU's Summit meeting in Gothenburg, Sweden in June 2001 is still ongoing on. In Sweden, many people are serveing severe sentences and for the non-Swedes, the trials are only just beginning. Norwegians, Germans, Danes, Finns and one Dutch person are still waiting for their trials. Several weeks ago, the long-awaited report appeared on the conduct of the police, which acknowledged that the police were decidedly in the wrong, and which only calls for a ban on masks in the future.
The events in June 2001
The European Summit in Gothenburg began with the police surrounding a school that had been made available by the city council. Even before the first demonstration began, more than 240 people were "preventively" surrounded in their sleeping place and arrested at the end of the day. After spending the night in city buses, almost all the detainees were let go without being charged the following morning. All round the school, the first confrontations between the police and the demonstrators took place. Confrontations occurred on the following day, as well, among other things after a street rave that was attacked by a group of Nazis was beaten apart by the police. In the fights that followed, the police fired live ammunition upon the demonstrators: three people were wounded. The following day was yet again marked by two large "preventive" rounds of arrests.
A demonstration against police brutality was surrounded at its gathering point; in the course of the evening most of the detainees were let go in dribs and drabs after being recorded and searched. Another school building that was provided by the council was attacked by a special forces unit with automatic weapons. After the detainees had been forced to lie on the wet tarmac of the schoolyard for a few hours, and all the things in the building had been turned upside-down, the special forces unit vanished again. The European Summit was over.
The Swedish police were heavily criticised, not only because 500 people were arrested and held without charges simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. People were threatened and mistreated during the course of their arrests, by-standers were struck, shots were fired on a crowd. In addition, journalists, as well as cooks from Rampenplan (who had been invited by the council) were present in the schools and received a similar treatment. In short, a number of things went wrong.
Not one of the approximately one hundred complaints that were filed was seriously investigated. The report criticising the behaviour of the police was of no consequence (except for the introduction of a ban on masks) and the legal cases against those charged...
The legal cases
In the court of Gothenburg, more than 50 people have appeared in connection with the events. The sentences are on average about 20 times higher than in comparable cases before June 2001. People who are politically active get relatively higher sentences than people who are not; the average sentence for participating in a 'violent riot' for non-political persons is 9 months. For persons who are identified in the verdict as politically active, that average is 21 months. In many cases, there is no hard evidence, and the judgment is solely based on testimony from various police officers who contradict and cast doubt on each other. In at least one case it has been proven that police and prosecutors manipulated evidence. In the case in which a boy was charged who was seriously wounded by shots from the police, they edited out police brutality, edited in pictures of riots in other locations (even from Germany) and sounds of an angry crowd at the moment that he was shot down, while he was in fact standing completely alone. However, this ditd not affect the outcome. Groups of people have been sentenced in cases where it is perfectly unclear who did what. One group of 8 youths was even sentenced to prison terms ranging from 1 year and 4 months to 2 years and 4 months for sending SMSes.
In appeal cases, the sentences have seldom been overturned because the appeals take place in the very same court. The four cases which made it to the supreme court were all reduced to normal sentences. The lower court, however, sees no cause to scale back its new sentencings to normal proportions. The supreme court also acknowledges that there are people serving too severe sentences at this moment, but it is unable to do anything about it.
Transfer of all the cases
Most of the Swedish legal cases have already taken place, but the cases for non-Swedes are only just now beginning. At this moment, an unknown number of suspects are being searched for in Norway, Denmark, Finland, Germany and one Dutch person. However, the good news (for most of them) is that these cases will be transferred to courts in the respective countries of origin of the suspects, according to the Swedish public prosecutor. The German suspects, however, will not benefit much from this, as the sentencing standard in Germany is excessively high. The Dutch suspect is also still in danger of being sentenced to a ridiculously high sentence because his case is in fact the only one not to be transferred. It is as yet unclear why this is so.
A boy from Amsterdam was charged after he had filed a complaint about his arrest and the mistreatment in the first school to be surrounded. In other words, before something had even happened. He is at this moment suspected of participating in a 'violent riot', a comparable crime does not exist in the Netherlands. It specifically has to do with being in a particular place (where the 'riot' is in progress) at a particular time, and has nothing to do with whether one was actually contributing to it. Furthermore, he is suspected of violence against a police officer. Although there is sufficient evidence that he is innocent of this, that does not mean that he will be acquitted by the Swedish court. It is therefore of great importance to have the case transferred to the Netherlands. More information to come about the how and what of this campaign.
It is important to demonstrate our solidarity with all victims and to keep actively drawing attention to this matter. We will soon come forth with more information and concrete actions.
Some supplementary information can be found on Indymedia. A website with more information, www.steunmaarten.org will probably be launched in mid-March 2003."
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