The leader of the Young Christian Democrats of Sweden, Aron Modig, is visiting Cuba. Last Sunday he and Angel Carromero Barrios, a young Spanish conservative politician, sat in the front seats of a car in the Cuban countryside. The car crashed into a tree and the two men in the back seat died. Those men were political dissidents active in the Christian Liberation Movement in Cuba, Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero. CNN, DN, DN,
The two Europeans survived with some bruises and were taken to hospital and later to Havanna. During the week a police investigation has been performed. Witnesses to the accident have been heard. The surviving men from the front seats, the Swede and the Spaniard have been heard.
Aron Modig of Sweden of course wants to go home to Sweden but has been held by Cuban authorities since Monday afternoon (when he was released from the hospital). They said they needed him for the continued investigation of the accident and he is supposedly held by the Migration Authority. The Swedish Embassy visited him on Thursday.
Actually, The Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs has not claimed foul play in any way or form. They told media, who called them up and asked if they had visited Modig on Friday: "It was a holiday yesterday (Friday) in Cuba which made it difficult to contact authorities. We will see what happens on Monday."
Of course we could - and should - ask why Aron Modig is at all held by authorities. This is however too deep a question for Swedish journalism or law professors. They just say he shouldn't. He is a Swede and wants to go home!
They are ever so often "popujudicial nationalists". By this I mean that they are populists in that they focus on some infantile simplification of events that can be transformed into an easily understood headline. They are also "judicial nationalists": Sweden's system is always better than every other country's, down to the finest details, in handling of legal cases.
But how do these popujudicial nationalists even know that Aron Modig was not the driver of the car and caused two innocent people to die and is subject to a preliminary investigation?
I can find nothing in the reporting that identifies who drove the car until Friday, when a preliminary report was published in Cuba. This may not have been obvious from the scene of the accident. The report concludes that the Spaniard drove the car. Reuters reported (English). The case is not over however: "The report indicated possible criminal charges were being considered. The report's conclusion that Carromero was to blame for the accident suggested that he could face charges of reckless driving and involuntary manslaughter".
It seems to have been a case of really reckless driving (English).
On Saturday Swedish tabloid Expressen discovered the Cuban investigation and published a short notice with a graphic from the report that shows how the accident happened. But Expressen did not even understand what the graph shows: That the accident took place just after a paved road ended and became a gravel road! Even with my Spanish I can read that on the graph.
Here is the official notice from the Cuban preliminary investigation, something that has not been covered by Swedish media. I also note that the Spanish Foreign Minister held a press conference on Saturday, telling that Cuba would continue the investigation with a "culmination" on Monday-Tuesday (=today & tomorrow) whereafter they would decide whether to charge the Spanish driver with a crime.
So how can Aron Modig be held by authorities at all?
Mårten Schultz, a law professor in Sweden who is always a quick shooter and commentator but also (or therefore?) a predictable "popujudicial nationalist" cannot see a reason for the Swede to be held by authorities in Cuba, especially not the Migration Authorities. As usual he refuses to think outside Sweden's legal handling of cases.
Well, in Sweden you can of course be held for very long times in the course of preliminary investigations if you are the suspect of a crime. Critics say that detention is severely over-used in Sweden.
It seems that at least after the preliminary report was published on Friday, the Swede, Aron Modig, was not anymore suspect of a crime, if he ever was. He could well have been. He is still a key witness however.
In Sweden the Police can bring in a witness by force and keep him/her locked up for 12 hours in order to extract information when they investigate a crime. Right or wrong? Too long or too short time?
In Sweden the Swedish Migration Board runs five Detention Facilities ("Förvar" in Swedish) where non-Swedish citizens can be locked up (for migration related questions) for up to two months without a court decision. Right or wrong?
I think we should be open to the possibility that Cuba behaves in a correct judicial way and follows the rules of their system when investigating a potential crime that led to two persons losing their lives. In Sweden you can be sentenced to imprisonment for killing people by reckless driving. If you have been drinking alcohol sentences can be stiff. It can be a very serious crime.
So the question would be: are those rules in Cuba "worse" than Swedish rules as the popujudicial nationalists insist - without knowledge about Cuban rules of course. I have no knowledge about the Cuban rules either but I have imagination:
What if they have rules in Cuba which says that if you are a witness to a serious crime and you are necessary for the investigation of that crime and you are expected to leave the country before a proper investigation could be made, then you can be put in detention for some days? Would it be shocking? Horrendous?
What if the Police in Cuba outsources detention of foreigners to the Migration Authority because they have nicer facilities than those for ordinary Cuban prisoners? Or what if Aron Modig has overstaid his Visa but is still needed for the investigation?
I can think of hundreds of scenarios and ways to handle situations like these (a foreigner who intends to get home as soon as possible but is either a suspect of or a key witness to crime and is needed by the authorities for this reason) in different legal systems without this necessarily being more outrageous than Sweden behaves in various situations. I agree that Aron Modig should be able to meet people from the Embassy or other people for that matter, even if they are afraid he will fly home. They could take his passport and more.
I am also open to the possibility that Cuba behaves in an extra-legal way. It is not a democracy and Aron Modig had contacts with dissidents. So it would not be entirely surprising if they held him to extract information. This is not something that has been suggested however.
My mistake, that afforded me bottomless ridicule from the establisment (top tabloid journalist, well-known law professor and top politician - at least) on Twitter yesterday was an ironic comment I made: I pointed out that authorities sometimes actually hold people when they want to interrogate them and mentioned that Julian Assange had been held in nightly house arrest, electronic bracelet etc for 600 days because the police wants just that.
The comparison is ridiculous the popujudicial nationalists claim. As I have shown above it may not at all be ridiculous.
When it comes to Assange he is wanted for interrogation concerning two main sex offences, one of which he has actually already been heard about: One of the Swedish women believes that he deliberately tore a condom. He denies.
The other woman did not want to participate in a specific sexual act. He performed it anyway. She then accepted it, commented on it, continued and afterwards joked about it. Later she regretted it however, seemingly influenced by friends, and feared HIV/STD so much that she wanted to force Assange to a test. When the story was heard by the police the Swedish judicial system claimed (not she) that she had been raped and off it went.
If one is not a popujudicial nationalist one can actually criticize the view of what kind of sex should constitue a serious crime ( as opposed to morally condemnable on a personal level) as well as Sweden's handling of the case.
To understand how politicized sex has become in Sweden and to understand how the Assange case could turn into a top national priority, read my book: A Brief History of Swedish Sex. The cover and links are also found in the top right column here.
Update Monday evening: Aron Modig has been released on Monday and will get back to Sweden now. Right so, we are all happy! My media and establishment critique stands. ABC News/AP (English), DN, SvD, SR, GP. I must say however that a press conference that is so swiftly called that the Embassy could not attend and where the two Europeans confessed to illegal activity (handing over money to the opposition) gives a bad taste. It is by the way very unlikely, given Sweden's national pride, that Assange would be interrogated in London, as the Ecuadorian Foreign Minister has suggested, Times of India (English) GP.
Since someone who does not know me may believe that I am a fan of Cuba: My basic political instinct is quite opposite to that of Cuba's. That instinct is Libertarian, but with substantial amendments when it comes to practical politics and legislation. If I mix my personal values with that basic political view I would describe myself as a "techno-progressive, green-leaning, anti-authoritarian, anti-consumist, lifestyle-libertarian, sex-positive, freedom-of-communications activist with a decent sense of social justice". I have voted for The Pirate Party in four elections.