Last year, a 31-year-old man who led the criminal gang Satudarah assassins was murdered in the Emporia shopping center in Malmö. The sound of gunshots caused panic, and children and young people on summer vacation took refuge in the stores’ changing rooms. The gang leader was captured on video, lying shot on the floor with a bloody chest.
As customers fled the mall, one teenage boy didn’t react like the others and stood still at the exit. This raised suspicions in a police officer, who followed him as he jumped into a taxi. The car was stopped before leaving the area, and the 15-year-old boy was arrested. He admitted to being the one who shot the gang leader.
The boy has since turned 16 years old, spending seven months in custody in Malmö. He studies at a primary school level by meeting with a teacher who gives him schoolwork, and he can work out in the detention center’s gym, but not with other inmates. He cannot call or receive visitors, nor can he stay in common areas in the detention center.
From July 2021, a person under 18 may only be detained for three months, but exceptions can be made if there are special reasons. According to prosecutor Michelle Stein, this is the case in this instance. The investigation involves several suspects, including prominent gang criminals from Malmö, and has grown since the murder.
Eight people, both men and women, are in custody, but the 16-year-old boy remains behind bars, unable to be placed in an SIS home. He has the right to socialize with staff for at least four hours per day since he cannot meet with other inmates. Johan Fernvall, the boy’s lawyer, is critical of the limited meaning of the law that sets a maximum length for detention, believing special reasons will always allow the prosecutor to exceed the limit.
Children’s Ombudsman Elisabeth Dahlin is critical of more and more children spending long periods in detention, calling for faster investigations and looking for alternatives in handling children suspected of crimes. She notes that many detained children had mental illness before detention, which can worsen their health. The statistics show an increasing number of minors detained for a long time, with the longest detention lasting 1,083 days between 2020-2022, according to the Correctional Service.
The murder of the 31-year-old man who was the leader of the criminal gang Satudarah assassins took place in the shopping center Emporia in Malmö on a Friday afternoon in August last year. Children and young people on summer vacation took shelter in the stores’ changing rooms when the sound of several shots caused panic. On videos from the scene, people can be heard screaming and the gang leader can be seen lying shot on the floor with a bloody chest.
But while terrified customers ran out of the mall, one person stood still at the exit – a teenage boy who did not react like others. It raised suspicions in a police officer who therefore followed when he saw the boy jump into a taxi. The car was stopped before it left the area and the 15-year-old boy was arrested. He immediately admitted that he was the one who shot the gang leader.
Since then the boy has turned 16 years old. He did so in custody in Malmö, where he has been in custody for the seven months that have passed since the murder. He studies at primary school level by meeting a teacher who gives him schoolwork and can work out in the detention center’s gym, but not together with other inmates. This is because he still has pretty much all the restrictions: He is not allowed to call, receive visitors or stay in common premises in the detention center. However, for some time now he has been allowed to read newspapers and watch TV and he has been allowed to meet his mother on a few occasions.
– He has been sitting for a long time. It is clear that it affects him a lot. Then somehow it happened that he got used to the situation, for better or for worse, says Johan Fernvall, the boy’s lawyer.
Since July 2021 a person under the age of 18 may only be detained for three months. But exceptions may be made if there are special reasons, which, according to prosecutor Michelle Stein, it does in the case. Therefore, the detention has so far been able to last for more than twice as long.
– The case has of course been prioritized, but several people are suspects and the crime is of such a nature that it is a very extensive investigation. It takes time, she says.
Shortly after the murder, police sources told DN that the shooting was considered a contract killing. Since then, the investigation has grown. Prominent gang criminals from Malmö, several of them from the victim’s own gang, are suspected of involvement. Eight people, both women and men, are in custody.
Prosecutor Michelle Stein believes that the investigation can be completed in May at the earliest and that a trial can be held during the summer. That would mean that the 16-year-old had then been detained for almost a year. But according to Michelle Stein, it has not been possible to place him in an SIS home instead.
– The opportunity to limit a young person’s contacts with the outside world that is needed is not available in a SIS accommodation. I mean that it has been necessary for him to be in custody and the district court has shared that assessment, says Michelle Stein.
In order for detained children not to be isolated, they have the right to socialize with others for at least four hours a day. Since the 16-year-old is not allowed to meet inmates, this means that he is allowed to socialize with staff – for example, play board games or table tennis.
For Johan Fernvall, the law has if the maximum time for the detention of children has been given a very limited meaning.
– I had no hopes when the rule was introduced that it would have any practical effect. The young people who are detained for such a serious crime that the investigation period takes more than three months, there will always be special reasons and the prosecutor will always have the opportunity to exceed the limit.
Sweden’s Children’s Ombudsman Elisabeth Dahlin says that a large part of the children who are detained suffered from mental illness even before the detention, which she says can seriously deteriorate their health.
– Three months is a long time in a child’s life if you compare it to adults. That is why the decision was taken by the Riksdag, to change so that children could only be detained for three months. There are special reasons for that. If it is the case that there is now a new law, resources must be added so that you actually follow that law. Then the legal system must be adapted accordingly.
She calls for faster investigations and says that “a heavy responsibility rests on the principals” in reducing the times.
More and more children are suspected of serious crimes that can be complicated to investigate, is it possible to shorten the times?
– Sufficient resources and knowledge are needed to be able to actually follow the law that has been enacted. We believe that the principals should look at alternatives when it comes to children who are suspected of crimes, and the UN has also pointed this out to Sweden several times.
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