Swedish terror trial: ‘I still check what people have in their hands’

Centre Party leader Annie Lööf told a court on Wednesday how profoundly her life had been affected by the discovery that she had been the main target of July's suspected terror attack at the Almedalen political festival.

Swedish terror trial: 'I still check what people have in their hands'
A court sketch from the trial at the district court in Visby showing Annie Lööf and the suspected terrorist Theodor Engström. Illustration: Johan Hallnäs/TT

Lööf said that she had avoided giving speeches to crowds during this summer and autumn’s election campaign, had been ringed by bodyguards at the Stockholm Pride Parade at the end of August, and still tended to compulsively check the hands of those approaching her to make sure they are not carrying a knife or other weapon. 

“It affects me enormously,” she told the court. “You’re on your guard. At times, I haven’t allowed my kids to play in the garden without an adult watching. I don’t normally open letters at home. I avoid big groups of people.” 

She said that even now, five months after the attack, she finds herself on the look out for whether people are armed. 

“I still look at what people are carrying in their hands. I’m finding it hard to stop doing that.”  

The far-right extremist Theodor Engström on July 6th fatally stabbed the psychiatrist Ing-Marie Wieselgren in the centre of the city of Visby on Gotland, in what it later emerged was intended to be a terror attack on the political festival then taking place. He told police after he was seized that Lööf had been his main target. 

Engström’s trial on charges of murder, terrorism and attempted terrorism began on Tuesday, and he is due to be heard in court on Wednesday afternoon. 

He has told police that the attack was “a scream” intended to bring attention to his mistreatment as a psychiatric patient, when he said he was “a ghost boy” kept in a “ghost cage”.  

He admits to stabbing Wieselgren, and has acknowledged that his acts qualify as terrorism. Court psychiatrists have judged that he was severely psychiatrically disturbed, both at the time of his attack and at the time that he was examined by them. 

Lööf and her team had been in the central Donners plats square at the time stabbing took place, waiting to go up on a stage there, and were immediately rushed into the nearby Donnerska huset for safety. 

“The bodyguard said, ‘come, we’ve got to go’,” Lööf told the court. 

From the windows, her team could see blood on the square, and they stayed there for over an hour until police had determined that there was only one attacker. 

“I went into a dutiful boss mode, and said that we needed to count how many of us there are inside,” she remembered. “I had to deal with my colleagues’ emotional states.” 

She said that she felt it was important — “right and correct” to hold her Almedalen speech that day, and she felt she was not taking too much of a risk, as by that point it was clear that Engström was acting alone, but she acknowledged that she had felt “extremely vulnerable” up on the stage. 

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Sweden’s ‘snippa’ rape case to go to the High Court

When Sweden's appeals court threw out a guilty verdict in a child rape case over the meaning of 'snippa', a child's word for a vagina, it caused a scandal in Sweden. Now, the Swedish Supreme Court wants to hear from the Court of Appeals about its decision.  

Sweden's 'snippa' rape case to go to the High Court

Attorney General Petra Lundh criticised the appeals court for “a number of serious miscarriages of justice” in the way it dealt with the case. 

The man had been sentenced to three years imprisonment in 2021 after the district court heard how he, in the prosecutor’s words, had “by sticking his hand inside the plaintiff’s shorts and underwear, holding his hand on the the girl’s ‘snippa’ and having a finger inside her ‘snippa’, performed a sexual act” on her. 

The girl’s testimony was found to be credible, in part because she had told her mother about the incident on their way home.

But in February this year, the appeals court threw out the conviction, arguing that it was unclear what the girl means by the word snippa, a word taught to Swedish children to refer to female genitalia.

Despite agreeing with the district court that the man had touched the girl between her legs and inserted his finger into her snippa, the court found that it could not be determined whether the girl was referring to her vulva or to her vagina.

If the man had inserted his finger into her vagina, that would have met the standard to be classified as rape. Because the girl said that his finger was “far in”, but could not state exactly how far, the appeals court found that it could not establish beyond doubt that the man had inserted his finger in her vagina and not her the vulva.

Because no lower-grade charges, such as sexual abuse or molestation, had been filed against the man, the appeals court could not consider other offences.

This week, the Attorney General lodged a complaint with the Supreme Court against the appeal court’s decision. Now the Swedish Supreme Court has given the appeals court until April 12 to explain its decision-making in the case.

The Supreme Court has not decided whether it will hear an appeal against the decision to clear the man of rape charges.