05 juni 2013

The Catrine da Costa case – media court and the enemies of justice

Posted by Dispatch International April 11, 2013. Fifth and last article in a series.

Despite all setbacks, the two doctors did not give up their battle for justice and restitution. They appealed the revocation of their medical licenses to Regeringsrätten (The Supreme Administrative Court) – who rejected their filing. Then came an extended period involving a series of applications for restitution, and a couple of filings at the European Commission of Human Rights. All were rejected, as if an assembly line were stamping blank papers with rubber stamps.

This legal intermission went on for a full twelve years, until Anders Agell, a professor emeritus in civil law, took up the case in 2003. Yet another application for restitution was denied,.

Submissions to Chancellor of Justice Göran Lambertz produced no results, and the Chancellor likewise refused to agree to a multi-million kroner demand for damages. Lambertz thought that would be for a court to decide.

So, after having worked on the case for four years, on April 2007 Anders Agell filed a case against the Swedish state, at the district court of Attunda, demanding a total of Skr 40 million (€4.8 million) in damages, loss of income and negligence on the part of the state.

The first step in that case, which was to become number 16 in the sequence after 1988, was a so-called interlocutory, where judge Nils Hedström declined to accept the claim from the State that events predating 1991 were past the statute of limitations. Then the Director of Attunda district court, Erik Ternert, claimed Hedström was in a conflict of interest, to the advantage of the doctors.

Nils Hedström was withdrawn from the case, and Ternert himself took over. But at the same time the undersigned revealed in a series of articles that Erik Ternert had dealt secretly with the state agent, who at that time was an assistant of the Chancellor of Justice. In a narrow circle, judge Ternert had also promised that the case would never actually be taken up at court. My revelations led to Judge Ternert’s being forced to resign from his office.

Erik Ternert had also attempted to compel the obviously talented Anders Agell to leave the case, referring to his age. Professor Agell, 77 at the time, became extremely angry over the excesses by Ternert.

However, when the case for damages eventually came before the Attunda district court in November 2009, Anders Agell had died, having been replaced by the lawyers Kajsa Blomgren and Carl Johan Vahlén representing the doctors. 157 points were presented wherein the State was considered to have acted incorrectly, illegally or with negligence.

The Swedish State was represented through the Chancellor of Justice by the retired judge Ingvar Gunnarsson, who back in the days was a close friend and colleague of Carl Anton Spak, the man who had penned the devastating justification for the verdict back in 1988.

The spokesman for the court was judge Sten Falkner, a former prosecutor who had previously worked on laws at the Ministry for Justice and had also worked for the National Prosecutor. That made him a clear example of the very unfortunate practice in which top-level lawyers move between various positions within the legal system. The risk of corruption through friendship is too large.

It would soon turn out that the scandals from the previous legal circus were to see new chapters, in the damages case as well the debacle concerning Erik Ternert’s blunders. For the State had neglected to file its objections to the 157 points justifying damages, and was now forced into simply giving up on all objections.

That made a flabbergasted Sten Falkner ask the lawyers what they wanted ”to be written in a future verdict”. That was no simple oversight from the side of the State, it was pure carelessness, the State’s attorneys demanding many breaks for deliberations. To the audience it was like following a game of chess with the Devil, who was eventually forced to sacrifice his queen.

”We have been nagging them like crazy for 18 months to file the objections, but they have not bothered to do so,” attorney Kajsa Blomgren said during one of the breaks.

Apart from the legal chess games, the proceedings brought forth only a little real news. The first came when the professor in forensic medicine, Jovan Rajs, gave his testimony. He was the absolute crowning witness in the damages case, due to his position as the Härm’s superior at the medical investigation clinic at Solna. Already at an early stage, he had turned his adept Teet Härm into the police, via a handwritten letter to the technical police division.

Now, 25 years later, Rajs claimed that the only thing he knew with certainty was that da Costa had been murdered. ”But who had murdered her I can’t tell,” he said. Rajs was the person who had autopsied the body parts, and his unwavering testimony in the previous cases, primarily against Teet Härm, had been very decisive.

Jovan Rajs also got into a heated courtroom quarrel with Kajsa Blomgren, as she started reading out his memoirs, in which he describes Teet Härm as ”a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”.

Rajs then shouted aggressively to the entire room: ”No quoting, if you read, you must read the complete chapter. This is not Moscow in 1936.” With his verbal outbursts, Rajs attempted to equate the case with the Stalinist purges in the former Soviet Union. If Rajs had previously been a respected professor in forensic medicine, and previously had pawned his credibility on Härm’s status as both a killer and a dismemberer, he managed on that day to squander all his respect.

It was a clearly shaken person who left the court abruptly after his testimony, accompanied by extreme feminists, who yet again had turned up.

One of the jurors from the 1988 murder case also gave testimony. John-Henri Holmberg explained that he had no idea what the content of the devastating verdict justification would be. Also, he had no knowledge of how that justification was to be written, and got to see the complete verdict only on the same day it was published.

Two judges were also forced to the witness stand: Ingegerd Westlander, who penned the justification about dismembering along with Carl Anton Spak, and Peter Wennerholm, who penned the verdict from the Administrative Court about revoking the doctor’s licenses. But both of them crawled insecurely back and forth among their claimed memory gaps, or referred to the judge’s oath, which prevents judges from revealing details from the individual court deliberations. And the spokesman for the court, Sten Falkner, let them keep up their charades with a smile.

At this point, the media circus had taken down its tent and packed up, coverage of the case was very limited, and no so-called “cultural personalities” appeared during the hearings. Possibly they were ashamed of their previous excesses in reporting.

In the verdict from Attunda District Court, which was handed down in February 2010, 26 of the 157 points from the doctors’ side were upheld, but the district court did not consider any of those points serious enough to justify damages. The verdict was appealed to the High Court as well as to the Supreme Court, but without any result.

In total, some 30 judges have been involved in the 18 different cases through three decades. And we can easily note that in many cases, judges have protected each other from criticism for previous mistakes.

The Catrine da Costa case has been characterized by pure cowardice, miserable legal incompetence and corruption. But the word “corruption” does not exist in Swedish law book. And yet, all of these combined have been the sparks that ignited the fire of legal decay and burned justice to ashes.

By Anders Carlgren

04 juni 2013

The Catrine da Costa case – Legal incompetence and corruption


Posted by: Dispatch International April 4, 2013. Fourth article in a series.

After the two show trials in the district court of Stockholm against the two doctors charged with the murder of Catrine da Costa, the National Health Board revoked their licenses to practice medicine. This was done referring to the acquittal from the court stating that they had dismembered the dead body. Thus, they were both acquitted and punished under the same verdict. The National Health Board decision was appealed several times, and the battle for justice and restitution continues even today.

The decisive trial about the licenses of Thomas Allgén and Teet Härm began on a spring day in April 1991 at the Administrative Court in Stockholm. Almost two years have passed since the devastating verdict from the district court. The doctors were acquitted, but were thought to have dismembered the body, their punishment being barred due to the statute of limitations.

The justification was appealed, but the high court as well as the supreme court refused to nullify it. The case was then taken to the Administrative Court in order to cancel the National Health Board decision. The legal wrangling  started with annulling the decision, giving the doctors their licenses back.

But then the Supreme Administrative Court stepped in, demanding that the Administrative Court should retry the case, now demanding that the case had to be decided with presentation of evidence as in a criminal case, despite the Administrative Court having no such legal competence.

The Social Democrat Laila Freivalds was Minister of Justice at the time, and it was legally and politically impossible to take this without her approval. The procedure has even been called “the politicized miscarriage of justice”.

At the retrial on the spring day in 1991, hordes of hard-line feminists had assembled in the street outside, with banners stating “Class before gender”, “Who will be the next victim?” and “Women get no justice”. From the shouting came the slogan ”Hear our call, grave respect for all!”.

The over-inflated media expectations stimulated the general public as well as demonstrators. The news anchor Olle Andersson at state broadcaster SVT was practically alone in his early observation of his colleagues’ attitude:

”What really astonished me was the hateful mood among reporters from Dagens Nyheter, Expressen, Aftonbladet and from the opinion writers of those newspapers. The doctors were to be hung up by their genitals, they were guilty! During the breaks at the trials, there was hatred emanating from the walls from those reporters.”

The crime journalist Ewa Thures from the news agency TT described Thomas Allgén as a ”schoolboy looking like an old man”. And Gun Fälth of Dagens Nyheter, who worked as a prosecutor in the past, considered it tiresome to listen to Allgén, that he was ”arrogant and jealous over his dignity”. Britt Edwall, a hardcore feminist at the state broadcaster Sveriges Radio, thought that Teet Härm was ”brooding, gray and closed” beside his lawyer, whom Edwall thought was ”as if taken directly from a theater piece by Molière”.

As the two doctors fought at court for their professional honor and future, all media impartiality and objectivity was gone with the wind.

The Administrative Court had one issue to decide: whether Allgén and Härm were still worthy to work as doctors. Bertil Södermark, the National Health Board spokesman in the case, demanded in his submissions that the standards of proof had to be set lower than in the district court, as there was no fundamental right to work as doctors. An ID issue was not the same thing as being charged with murder, Södermark held.

This trial featured the reappearance of roughly the same set of witnesses as at the district court, as well as various psychiatrists and psychologists as expert witnesses, fighting each other over the credibility of the testimony from the child Karin about what she was claimed to have experienced.

Journalists of culture such as Yrsa Stenius at Aftonbladet and Eva Ekselius at Dagens Nyheter wrote about the conflict as if they were themselves experts in the matter. The shifting role identities among the journalists were obvious. Furthest down that road was the star writer Per Svensson of Expressen as he tried to analyze what went on in the head of Teet Härm:

”The Coroner is a mere two years older than myself. There are several boys of his kind in my schoolyards, boys who were not permitted to play along, and who would rather stay at home, do homework, study books about the style of SS uniforms, gluing together plastic models of German tanks.” Svensson continued: ”Boys of this kind used to like experimenting with pulling the legs off flies. And the lord of the flies in a doctor’s coat is a nightmare figure you would prefer avoiding any contact with.”

Yrsa Stenius of Aftonbladet wrote seven chronicles, one from each day at court. She saw Thomas Allgén before her ”as a man who is strict and controlled, bordering on lifeless. [...] The man behaves a bit like a robot. Yet, from time to time, something does trickle through the iron curtain.”

The hard-line feminist struggle to punish the two doctors was beginning to look like a public movement, and soon the campaign was given a name: “Justice for Catrine”. There were daily demonstrations, and when the verdict came on May 31st, the conclusion was given in advance.

Thomas Allgén and Teet Härm did not get their doctor’s licenses back. The miscarriage of justice had now been confirmed by a court lacking the legal competence to evaluate the case.

On that evening, 600 feminists marched through the streets of Stockholm, red roses in their hands. At the staircase leading to the High Court of Svea, the hard-line feminist Hanna Olsson, who succeeded in making the prosecutor Anders Helin take the case to the district court a second time, spoke:

Olsson was hoping that the word “whore” could now be eliminated. “After this, only the word ‘woman’ exists. We are breaking a millennium-old patriarchal order under the man,” Olsson was shouting to the jubilant women laying down their roses on the stairs to the court.

In the last chapter: The doctors fight their last battle – demanding Skr 40 million (€4.8 million) compensation for damages.

The Catrine da Costa case – media court and the enemies of justice


Publisched by Dispatch International March 28, 2013. Third in a series.

In the previous installment we described how completely impossible it was that the two doctors could have managed to pick up da Costa, bring her to the medical investigation clinic, have sex with her, kill her, dismember the body, clean up the autopsy room, bring away the body parts and get back home.

In order to disguise this fact and prevent the doctors from being acquitted, the way the first trial collapsed due to procedural errors and blabbering jurors, the ultrafeminist Hanna Olsson launched a campaign aimed at demolishing the doctors based on emotional arguments.

On the same day that the renewed decision to prosecute came, March 31st, the leftist lawyer Christian Diesen wrote in the communist newspaper Proletären that he was convinced that the doctors were guilty, and that it was frustrating that with their perversions they ”will get away with it because the head of the victim was never found.”

Hanna Olsson and Cristian Diesen were now seen as the standard-bearers of truth, not least among the leftist journalists at the state broadcasters Sveriges Radio and Sveriges Television. They had been convinced by the political and feminist rhetoric surrounding the case about the two high society men and the defiled woman.

The retrial against Thomas Allgén and Teet Härm went much more according to the tastes of Hanna Olsson and Christian Diesen than the first. The prostitute with the diary eventually played a key role, providing support for what the child Karin had said.

Much later, the professor and author Leif GW Persson judged the diary a forgery, and the author Jan Guillou believes that the woman committed perjury in giving her testimony.

During the second trial at the end of May 1988, the witness with the diary made a powerful impression, not least because she previously, in an interview given to Sveriges Television, had explained how a tied-up da Costa had been subjected to throttling sex games in the presence of the small child. But to the police she had given an entirely different story. The possibly forged diary was proclaimed a document of truth by the media.

Public prosecutor Helin’s tactic was to prove both doctors to be perverted with an abnormal sexual interest in defiling weak women. In this way, he was entirely in line with the two self-proclaimed experts Hanna Olsson and Christian Diesen.

Witnesses from the first trial now appeared in court again. The court chose to screen two gory movies which had been confiscated from Teet Härm. That decision was taken after Folkaktionen mot Pornografi, (“The People’s Campaign Against Pornography”), backed by some 70 more or less militant feminist women’s organizations, had written an open letter to the prosecutor, demanding that the movies be shown.

Screening the movies made a great impact in the media, in Sweden as well as abroad, and leftist journalism with its tainted feminist reporting reinforced the image of both doctors as being sexual monsters.

But the judgment at the court of Stockholm on July 8th 1988 became a double surprise. Teet Härm and Thomas Allgén were acquitted of murder. The charge of having dismembered the body fell away due to any such crime being past the statute of limitations.

But the judge, Carl-Anton Spak, also wrote in his verdict, which could not be appealed, that it had been made clear that the two had dismembered the dead body. At a press conference, he said “one could view that as consumer information”.

Three years later, after a series of trials, both doctors lost their licenses to practice. The corruption of justice had now dug itself into the bedrock of Swedish law.

In the next installment, we describe the doctors’ battle, lasting more than 20 years, to obtain justice and redress from the scandalous verdicts.

By Anders Carlgren