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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 July, 2004, 14:55 GMT 15:55 UK
Swedish surprise at Lindh case twist
By Lars Bevanger
BBC News Online, Oslo

A picture of Anna Lindh
The murder of Anna Lindh shocked Sweden's open society
Legal experts and commentators had prepared the Swedish people for no change in the sentencing of Mijailo Mijailovic, the man who killed the country's Foreign Minister, Anna Lindh.

It came as a surprise to most when the appeals court decided to overturn his life-in-prison verdict and ordered him sent to a closed psychiatric ward instead.

Barbro Hedvall, a leader writer for the Swedish national daily Dagens Nyheter, is worried by the decision.

"This is horrible. It's not good for the Swedish judiciary, because there are far too many coincidences which have led to this sentence. It is not about facts, but the views of two different teams of psychiatrists," she told BBC News Online.

An initial psychiatric assessment concluded he was well enough to serve his prison sentence.

But a new assessment ahead of his appeal case concluded the opposite.


"I don't think people will be convinced by this," Ms Hedvall said, "and neither the judiciary nor the Swedish psychiatric care system have strengthened their position in peoples' minds."

Matthias Stahl, a Stockholm musician, had expected the appeals court to do as the Stockholm city court and maintain the life prison sentence.

But Mr Stahl did not feel it was necessarily the wrong conclusion.

Mijailo Mijailovic
Mijailovic said he had heard 'voices' telling him to attack

"The sad thing is that it [the murder] happened at all. If you're mentally ill, you shouldn't be in prison. But if he gets out early", it would not be right, he told BBC News Online.

Mijailo Mijailovic's mental health has been central throughout this case.

He said voices in his head told him to attack Anna Lindh, and that it was not his intention to kill her.

Sweden's psychiatric care system has been under heavy criticism even before the killing of Anna Lindh.

A 1995 reform was meant to modernise and streamline the system, by reducing the number of closed psychiatric wards and integrating patients into society during their treatment.

In the months before the murder, the country experienced several disturbing murders committed by people who should have been receiving care in closed psychiatric institutions.

Turned away

Mijailo Mijalovic had sought help for his mental problems ahead of killing Anna Lindh, but had been refused.

The fact that he will now receive psychiatric care after being found guilty for the murder might well further undermine people's belief in Sweden's psychiatric care system.

Christian Diesen, a professor of Swedish law, was surprised by the sentencing, and thought many people would be upset about it.

"This is in many ways a story about how society let Mijailo Mijailovic down," professor Diesen said.

"Anna Lindh was a higher representative for that society, and it would be easy to say now that she had to pay with her life for the failings of society," he added.

But Birgitta Darrell, a researcher at the Swedish Emergency Management Agency, said it was very important that Anna Lindh's killer was actually caught and found guilty.

"The arrest and sentencing of Mijailo Mijailovic eased the national trauma after Anna Lindh's death.

"It was important in a social-psychological perspective that an assailant could be linked to the murder," Ms Darrell said.

The 1986 murder of the then Prime Minister Olof Palme was never solved, and people had been worried they would have to live through yet another unsolved killing of a government minister.

The BBC's Lars Bevanger
"He heard voices in his head, he said, that told him to attack her"

Lindh killer challenges verdict
28 Jun 04  |  Europe
Profile: Mijailo Mijailovic
23 Mar 04  |  Europe
Swedish psychiatry in the dock
19 Jan 04  |  Europe

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