Student charged with agitation

May 15, 1998

A 26-year-old PhD student at Umea University in Sweden faces prosecution for complicity in inciting violent agitation towards an ethnic group after a Nazi lecture.

Karolina Matti arranged the lecture, which was held in December by Dan Berner, a member of the Nazi network Nordland.

Bj?rn Ericson, the chief public prosecutor of the district, has charged Mr Berner with "expressing contempt for ethnic groups or other such groups of people with reference to race, skin colour, national or ethnic origin" through his lecture. "Karolina Matti furthered Dan Berner's breach by arranging the lecture without having read the manuscript in advance," Mr Ericson added. "She should also have realised what he was saying and stopped him."

The two face fines or, at worst, two years in jail.

"This is an important case as it will probably define the limits for freedom of expression," Ms Matti told a newspaper. Mr Ericson confirmed that the case will set legal precedents because suitable, comparable judgments do not exist.

Mr Ericson based his decision to prosecute on statements by witnesses, including eight students who attended the lecture and a video of the lecture. "It has been a matter of judging where the border is between the freedom of speech guaranteed by our laws and what one may say about other people."

University leaders have been cleared of participation or complicity, and the justice ombudsman has acquitted the university's lawyer for questioning Ms Matti about her attitude to Nazism - normally an infringement of the right to hold political views.

The Nazi lecture cast a shadow over a three-day seminar on the Holocaust held at the university in March. To a lecture hall packed with school pupils, university students and the general public, rector Sigbrit Franke said: "Hitler's extermination of the Jews is certainly a subject that should be debated and analysed at this university. But the Nazi lecture was an abuse of the university as a forum for debate."

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