Date: Wed, 14 Apr 1999 22:45:02 -0500 (CDT)
From: (Brian Hauk)
Subject: Police Attempt To Frame Up Leader Of Indigenous Sami People In Sweden
Article: 60891
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Police Attempt To Frame Up Leader Of Indigenous Sami People In Sweden

By Daniel Ahl and Dag TirsÚn, Militant, Vol.63 no.15, 19 April 1999

STOCKHOLM, Sweden—Olof T. Johansson, chairman of the Sami village of Tossasen and member of the Sami parliament, was arrested and held in solitary confinement for a week. Johansson, one of the most well-known leaders of the oppressed Sami nationality in this country, was not allowed any outside contact or newspapers during that time. Court procedures took place behind locked doors. Johansson was then released unconditionally, but still could face frame-up charges of grave sabotage.

The Sami, sometimes called Laplanders, are the indigenous people of the Arctic regions of Sweden, Norway, Finland, and the Kola Peninsula in Russia. In fighting to protect their traditional hunting and reindeer grazing rights, they have come in conflict with the large landowners, who are backed by the Swedish government.

Johansson, 44, was woken in the morning March 26 by cops at his mother's apartment. He had just returned from a two-week information campaign to Holland, Germany, Belgium, and the United Kingdom. Johansson toured those countries with Sami leader Ingrid Rehnfeldt and activist Nanna Borchert.

Johansson was accused of bombing a pair of power grids in northwestern Sweden last August. The police searched his mother's apartment. They also searched his private home in Ostersund, seizing his personal computer and other personal items he uses in his work.

Olof has a lot of support among the Sami people. And we think that he's innocent until the opposite has been proved, Elin Klemensson, president of Sa'minuorra (Sami Youth), said in a phone interview March 30. This makes you wonder what the police and judicial system think they are doing. Why did they bring Olof in if they didn't have any proof? The police grabbed him and told the press [their accusations]. It makes you wonder if there's racism in this. This has deeply worried the entire Sami population, because we have always had to fight tooth and nail for our rights.

Ostersund chief prosecutor Sune Andersson charged Johansson with grave sabotage—which can carry a lifetime prison sentence—and with calling for such action. In the March 26 daily Dagens Nyheter, the prosecutor claimed that had the power grids fallen against each other, It could have plunged half of Sweden into darkness. He also referred to the explosions as political terrorism.

The only so-called evidence against Johansson reportedly presented by the cops was an e-mail signed by the Action Group Against Free Mountain Hunting, who sent the press message announcing the power grid bombs in September. The cops claimed Johansson had sent the e-mail from a public library computer.

Johansson is responsible for the web pages of the Samefolket (Sami People) monthly magazine, and is also a columnist for that paper. Speaking at a press conference hosted by the World Wildlife Fund in London shortly before his return, he spoke about the conflict between Swedish forest owners and Sami villages. Right now, seven Sami villages in Sweden have been sued by private landowners over traditional reindeer grazing rights.

This fight has been heating up throughout the 1990s, with the Sami villages suffering a number of setbacks in legal conflicts against landlords, who are backed by the government in Stockholm. In 1993, the Sami Villages lost veto power over hunting licenses. Since then, anybody can buy a license in the Swedish part of Sapmi, the Sami name for the northern area where they live. Some 50,000 live in Norway; 20,000 in Sweden; 4-5,000 in Finland; and 2,000 on the Kola peninsula in Russia.

In 1996, a local court in Sveg ruled that Sami reindeer keepers cannot have their flocks anywhere in private-owned forests. Sami representatives cited their traditional rights, but the court held that those rights couldn't be proved.

Klemensson pointed out that the Swedish government has refused to sign the ILO-169, an international charter from 1989 that recognizes the rights of indigenous peoples. We're nearing the year 2000 and we haven't solved the Sami question, she said. I think this arrest is just the beginning.