#MeToo defamation trial kicks off in Sweden

The trial begins on Thursday into whether a prominent Swedish journalist is guilty of defamation for naming an alleged rapist during the #MeToo movement.

#MeToo defamation trial kicks off in Sweden
Media personality Cissi Wallin is questioned by journalists as she arrives at court on Thursday. Photo: Fredrik Persson/TT

Journalist and campaigner Cissi Wallin accused fellow journalist Fredrik Virtanen of rape, naming him on social media during the global campaign for a change to structures that allow sexual assault to continue.

She claims that Virtanen drugged and raped her in 2006, allegations which he has always denied. Police investigated the claims before the #MeToo movement but did not bring charges. 

After Wallin named him as a rapist in posts on Facebook and Instagram in October 2017, he reported her for defamation. Due to the severity of the claim and the wide reach of Wallin's posts, the incident has been investigated as aggravated defamation.

She had used social media to encourage her supporters to attend the trial as it opened on Thursday morning, and there was a large crowd outside the court when the doors were opened.

Prosecutors claim that her posts presented Virtanen as criminal and culpable and have led to severely negative consequences in his personal life.

“He has been exposed to a large number of death threats and other kinds of verbal attacks. He has been spat at on the street,” said Virtanen's lawyer Monique Wadsted.

The court will now assess whether the posts were justifiable, and if it is judged that they were, the next step will be to assess the veracity of the claims, or whether Wallin had good reason to believe they were true. 

“If it is not justifiable, then the court doesn't need to go further and make a judgment on the veracity,” prosecutor Daniel Suneson told the court. He added that “even true information can be considered defamation”.

Wallin denies the charge of defamation and says she had good reason to publish the posts.

The trial continues.

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