In a landmark case, the Solna District Court has acquitted an Iraqi man suspected of abusing wife by pushing her against furniture, pulling her hair and hitting her face with a shoe. The court called the credibility of the woman's testimony into question, stressing her "lowly" parentage, the daily newspaper Aftonbladet reported.
In addition to stressing that the man "came from a good family," unlike the woman, the court ruled that the fact that the woman turned to the police instead of the husband's family "further" undermined her credibility. According to the court, "the normal thing" to do "in these circles" would be to try and resolve the conflict within the family.
The ruling, adopted by a divided court, triggered an immediate response from Sweden's legal circles.
"This is one of the most prejudiced and strange judgments I have read. Not completely unexpectedly dictated by two lay judges. Still no one in charge who wants to do something about the lay judge system?" former Swedish Bar Association president Bengt Ivarsson tweeted.
Det här är en av de mest fördomsfulla och märkliga domar jag läst. Inte helt oväntat dikterad av två nämndemän. Fortfarande ingen ansvarig som vill göra något åt nämndemannainstitutet? https://t.co/CIsUcVcp3X— Bengt Ivarsson (@BengtIvarsson) March 3, 2018
Prosecutor Josefine Dahlqvist appealed the ruling straight away, claiming that the ruling violated the foundations of Sweden's legal system.
Tingsrätten: Misshandlad kvinna borde inte ha vänt sig till polisen • Man friades för misshandel i tingsrätten – nämndemannen Ebtisam Aldebe (C) som ville fria mannen har förespråkat sharialagarhttps://t.co/KrzO8aOpwx pic.twitter.com/6I1189OyF8— Expressen (@Expressen) March 4, 2018
One of the two lay judges who freed the man is Center Party veteran Ebtisam Aldebe, who is known for having advocated special legislation for Sweden's Muslims (especially in divorce and inheritance rights) in a 2006 interview with Swedish broadcaster SVT. Aldebe ran for parliament in 2014 and is a member of the social committee in Solna. Aldebe also played a key role in rejecting at least three Christian converts asylum during her time as board member in Stockholm's Administrative Court, according to the Christian newspaper Världen Idag.
"I've ruled in many cases. I've ruled in favor of men in some cases and in favor of women in others. In this case, I followed the law. Swedish law," Ebtisam Aldebe argued in her defense.
However, Center Party leader Annie Lööf condemned the ruling and called for both lay judges to leave their roles.
"Horrendous judgment in Solna. Hair-raising reasoning and values that have no place in a state built on legal principles. These values have no place in our party. Our politics are based on all people's equal rights and value, and being equal before the law," Lööf tweeted.
Förfärlig dom i Solna. Hårresande resonemang och värderingar som inte platsar i en rättstat. Dessa värderingar har ingen plats i vårt parti. C:s politik bygger på alla människors lika rätt och värde, och likhet inför lagen. På morgonen har vi aktualiserat uteslutningsärenden.— Annie Lööf (@annieloof) March 5, 2018
Roger Haddad, justice spokesman for the Liberal Party, which alongside the Center Party is part of the four-party center-right Alliance opposition, stressed that "politically appointed lay judges" were unacceptable.
"I definitely do not want those who are in favor of sharia laws in Sweden," Haddad tweeted.
Jag vill inte ha politiskt tillsatta nämndemän i domstolarna. Och jag vill definitivt inte ha sådana som förordar sharialagar i Sverige. Domen från #Solna tingsrätt måste leda till åtgärder och konsekvenser #svpol #domstol— Roger Haddad (@RogerHaddadLib) March 4, 2018
Following accusations of supporting "honor-related culture," the Center Party was forced to specifically stress in a clarifying tweet it was "not in favor of sharia law." The Center Party also tweeted that it had lost confidence in both lay judges.
Vi står inte bakom uttalandena och är inte för sharialagar.— Centerpartiet (@Centerpartiet) March 4, 2018
Political scientist Stig-Björn Ljunggren ventured in an interview with the Nyheter Idag news outlet that Islamists are being recruited to stress the parties' willingness to be representative, inclusive and diverse.