Three Swedish Neo-Nazis Charged With Murder

ABC News/October 18,1999

Stockholm (Reuters) - Three Swedes linked to neo-Nazi groups were charged Monday with the murder of a left-wing union activist that has rekindled a national debate on how to clamp down on right-wing extremists.

Bjorn Soderberg, 41, was shot in the head when he answered the door to his flat in Satra, southern Stockholm, a week ago. He was believed to have previously received threats after his complaints forced a neo-Nazi fellow worker out of a union.

Hampus Hellekant, 23, Bjorn Lindberg Hernlund, 22, and Jimmy Niklasson, 20, appeared before Stockholm district court Monday amid tight security. They were remanded in custody at the end of the hearing, in which all three denied killing Soderberg.

"Extra security was organized for the hearing because of the risk that there could be attempts to escape or to help them escape," police spokesman Mats Nylen told Reuters.

It was decided to hold the trio in custody until enough evidence had been gathered for a court hearing. No date for a trial has been set.


Soderberg's murder rekindled concern about rising violence from neo-Nazi and extreme right-wing groups in Sweden, where immigrants make up 12 percent of the 8.9 million population.

Until this year neo-Nazi violence had been directed mainly at immigrants, with four racist murders recorded since 1995. But recent incidents point to a widening of targets.

In May two neo-Nazis, both former national servicemen, were charged with murder after shooting dead two policemen following a bank robbery. They have yet to come to court.

In June a journalist who documented the white supremacist movement in Sweden was seriously injured when a bomb exploded as he opened the door to his car parked outside his Stockholm home.

Sweden has a traditionally liberal approach to membership of extremist organizations, with the constitution allowing both freedom of speech and of association.

"We see this as part of democracy. We value freedom of association very highly and the constitution will not be changed due to threats from terrorists," Magnus Ljungkvist, spokesman for the Swedish Justice Department, told Reuters.

"However we are looking at ways to stop Nazi aggression in other aspects of the law ... with recommendations expected next year. We have, for example, a law against racist aggression that has been used more frequently in recent years."

The trade union movement, horrified by Soderberg's murder, backed away from calls to outlaw extremist groups but demanded stronger action by police, who keep a register of neo-Nazis.

A spokeswoman for Sweden's security police, Sapo, said there is an estimated hardcore of 1,500 neo-Nazi members in Sweden and several thousand sympathisers.

"Democracy must be protected. We must hit back against Nazism with all the power that a democratic society allows," the chairmen of three key Swedish unions -- the Trade Union Federation LO, white collar union TCO and academic union SACO -- wrote in a joint newspaper column.

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