Thu, Mar 25, 2004 - Page 7 News List

Anna Lindh's killer gets life in jail

'AKIN TO HATRED' 25-year-old Mijailo Mijailovic was given Sweden's toughest punishment for killing the foreign minister in a crime that opened old wounds

AFP , STOCKHOLM

The man who confessed to fatally stabbing Swedish foreign minister Anna Lindh was on Tuesday sentenced to life in prison, more than six months after the murder plunged Sweden into deep shock.

Lindh died on Sept. 11, a day after Mijailo Mijailovic, now 25, attacked her while she was shopping without a bodyguard, repeatedly stabbing her in the stomach, chest and arms.

Brushing aside any lingering doubts about Mijailovic's intentions during the fatal attack, the Stockholm district court said there was no doubt that he meant to kill the popular politician.

"He used a life-threatening weapon. He held the knife with both hands when he delivered the stabs ... the force was powerful. The location and the size of the stab wounds indicates that the intention was to kill," the court said in a statement.

"We are happy," one of the prosecutors, Krister Petersson, told reporters after the life sentence, which was widely expected, was announced.

Mijailovic confessed to the crime in January, claiming he had heard voices in his head which told him to stab Lindh, but this explanation should be disregarded, the court ruled.

It cited a court-ordered psychiatric examination which concluded that Mijailovic was not insane, neither when he stabbed Lindh nor afterwards, meaning he knew what he was doing.

"It is beyond reasonable doubt that Mijailo Mijailovic intended to kill Anna Lindh," the court said.

Mijailovic's lawyer, Peter Althin, who during the trial repeatedly demanded his client's release, has three weeks to appeal the decision. He said on Tuesday it was too early to say whether he would do so.

But Althin insisted that the prosecution had failed to prove premeditation on the part of his client.

Mijailovic never provided any motive for the attack, insisting however that it was not political. He said merely that he was sleep-deprived and doped up on a cocktail of anti-depressants when he heard the voices in his head telling him to attack Lindh.

Her death caused shock among Swedes, who expected her to one day lead the country as prime minister, and brought back painful memories of the unsolved 1986 killing of prime minister Olof Palme.

Justice Minister Thomas Bodstroem said he was relieved that the Lindh case had been brought to a conclusion, given the national trauma Swedes have experienced throughout the 18-year-old Palme investigation.

"It is very important that the case was cleared up because otherwise there would be an open wound in society. It is a sign that the system works," he said.

As foreign minister, Lindh represented her country abroad with political ideals that were also her own personal goals -- defending democracy, human rights and equality -- values Swedes cherish and in which they take pride.

After the arrest of Mijailovic, two weeks after the murder, it became clear that he was a tortured young man with violent tendencies, torn since childhood between his parents' roots in Serbia and his new home in Sweden.

The prosecution had argued that Mijailovic, who had a history of psychiatric problems and who in 1996 stabbed his father with a kitchen knife, considered himself to have been subjected to injustice and abuse of power, while his view of women was "akin to hatred."

In its verdict, the court described the "uncontrollable and ruthless rawness" that characterized Mijailovic's attack on Lind, and ordered him to pay Lindh's widower and two sons a total of 150,000 kronor (US$20,000) in damages.

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