Charges of covering up foreigner sex assault haunts Swedish police

Swedish police were facing criticism Monday for allegedly covering up incidents in which women were groped and harassed at a popular music festival for two years running.

National police chief Dan Eliasson promised a probe after Stockholm newspaper Dagens Nyheter at the weekend published internal police reports of how groups of young men had surrounded and groped teenage girls and young women during the music and culture festival We Are Sthlm in August.

Similar attacks occurred in 2014, but were not made public either.

According to an internal report quoted by Dagens Nyheter, many of the alleged assailants were young asylum seekers from Afghanistan.

Police estimated that about 200 young men were last year ejected from the five-day youth festival, which drew tens of thousands. However, the incidents did not receive public mention at the time. In addition, few formal complaints were made, according to the internal memos quoted by the daily.

"It was crowded, each incident was over very quickly and the girls had difficulty in identifying who did what," an unnamed police officer said.  

Speaking at a news conference on the sidelines of the annual Society and Defence conference in Salen, western Sweden, Eliasson said the assaults were "unacceptable" and he would order an internal probe.

A ranking police officer was at the weekend quoted by the daily as saying that a reason police kept quiet were fears that mentioning that many of the alleged assailants were asylum seekers would have been exploited by the anti-immigrant party Sweden Democrats.

But Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven quickly fired back that police should not take political considerations into their work.

"The police should fight crime and book people who are guilty. That is why I feel these girls have been let down twice," Lofven told reporters. "There are no reasons, in this case, to try to cover things up. We have a problem here, it has to be addressed, we will do so."

Home Affairs Minister Anders Ygeman also welcomed a probe.

Stockholm police spokesman Varg Gyllander said it was "a mistake" not to publicly mention incidents that should have been published on the police website that regularly lists arrests, traffic accidents or other crimes.

Last week, police in the south-western Swedish city of Kalmar said they were investigating several criminal complaints from women who say they were sexually attacked on New Year's Eve, in incidents similar to German cases that have caused widespread uproar.

Last update: Mon, 11/01/2016 - 18:56
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