In a shocking twist, five police officers are being forced to pay a fine to a Syrian migrant who was convicted for severely injuring one of them during riots related to a Quran burning during Easter of 2022.
The officers will have to pay out a total of 12,650 Swedish crowns (€1,122) from their own pockets to the 45-year-old convicted Syrian who has been sentenced to two years and seven months for his role in the riots.
The officers have reacted with near disbelief over the outcome of the case.
“It feels like something has gone terribly wrong in the legal system here. We are there and doing our job, yet individual police officers must be forced to pay out of their own pockets to people who really wanted us dead,” says Aleksandar Jeremic, who is a group leader in a civil suit involving the Botkyrka local police area and is now one of the five police officers ordered to pay court costs to the foreign national, according to Danish newspaper Dagens Nyheter.
The case stems from the Quran riots, which began in Örebro’s city park over Easter weekend in 2022. They were preceded by far-right activist Rasmus Paluden burning a Quran in Sweden, leading to the violent riots that lasted several days.
However, the judge in the case is defending the decision to fine the police officers, saying he is sticking to the letter of the law.
“I understand if it appears offensive from the police’s point of view. But there is no mistake that has been made, the rules are as they are. The issue of damages was separated into a civil case, and the police withdrew their claims, so they are considered the losing party and must pay,” said Johan Nordgren, councilor at Örebro district court and the judge who made the decision.
Several police officers were injured so severely by stone-throwing rioters in Sveaparken that they needed emergency care. Among them was Johan Westberg, who was hospitalized with a severe concussion and hand injuries that are expected to take years to heal.
Westberg is one of the officers requesting damages after the 45-year-old Syrian was sentenced to prison for “gross sabotage against police operations.”
The criminal case and the civil case were handled as two separate matters.
The Syrian was sentenced to over five years in prison, which was later overturned by the Supreme Court and reduced to two years and seven months. However, the Supreme Court decision also destroyed the officers’ civil case.
The judges there argued that officers are not entitled to damages in a case of “gross sabotage against police operations” because it is considered a crime against the state and not against individual police officers.
Based on this finding, the officers had no hope of winning their case. Westberg and the other police officers in the case therefore withdrew their claims for damages.
However, in the procedural code, anyone who withdraws their civil case is considered to have “lost” the case and must pay the other party’s legal fees. This is what happened in this case, resulting in severely injured officers being forced to pay damages to the Syrian who attacked them.
“I don’t intend to pay a penny. Then, they better foreclose on me. This is so wrong, I was in Sveaparken as a service (provider), it was not optional to work,” said Johan Westberg, who no longer works for the police, according to Dagens Nyheter.
The police have appealed to the Göta Court of Appeals. Their attorney, Ester Andersson Zandvoort, says it is very strange how the case was separated into a criminal and civil case to begin with.
“It is exactly the same claim for damages as in other trials and in none of the other cases has it been separated. It is very surprising that this judge has acted this way. We will appeal,” she said.