Outrage and shock are spreading across Sweden over a case against three men of foreign origin arrested on suspicion of raping a woman and broadcasting it live on Facebook.
Swedish authorities said yesterday that the case against the unidentified men was “growing stronger” amid an increasing backlash against immigrants in a country that took in more asylum seekers per capita than any other nation in Europe last year.
“There have been cases in Sweden before where crimes have been filmed and publicized on social media but not like this,” said Pontus Melander, chief prosecutor in the case in Uppsala, the city where the alleged incident took place in an apartment Jan. 22.
The alleged was live-streamed on a private Facebook page accessible to about 60,000 people.
It follows a year in which 163,000 people sought asylum in Sweden from conflict zones in North Africa and the Middle East — the most the country of 10 million has ever allowed in and double the number it accepted during the Balkan wars of the 1990s.
Authorities have named neither the victim nor the alleged perpetrators. Melander said two of the three men arrested were born in Afghanistan and a third was a Swedish citizen, although his birthplace is not publicly known.
Investigators have not yet seen the full broadcast, including the part where the alleged gang rape took place, because they are waiting for Facebook to comply with a request to release the footage.
Melander successfully argued Wednesday for the men to be detained for two more weeks while the investigation continues.
Prosecutors said the pair from Afghanistan denies taking part in a rape, a crime that carries a sentence of two to six years in Sweden.
The sentence for aggravated rape is four to 10 years. The Swedish national was detained on suspicion of failing to reveal rape, a lesser crime he also denies. No decision to prosecute has been made.
“He tore off her clothes and lay down on top of her,” Josefine Lundgren, one of several witnesses who contacted police shortly after watching the incident happen in real-time, told Swedish media.
Other witnesses have since come forward to say that a second, live broadcast showed the victim being forced to deny that she had been assaulted.
“There’s been total outrage about this case in Sweden,” said Jerzy Sarnecky, a criminologist at Stockholm University. “The fact that these men may not have been born in this country has made it of great interest to opponents of immigration. This kind of event fuels the xenophobic discussion.”
“My heart broke,” said Linda Johansson, another witness of the live broadcast. “They put the girl in front of the camera, but the guy who filmed tried to persuade her to deny she had been raped,” she told Swedish Television News. “He was putting words into her mouth. He was taunting and laughing throughout the whole clip.”