Homphobic Leaflets in Sweden Aren't Protected

     (CN) - Sweden's Supreme Court rightly imposed fines and sentences on four people who distributed about 100 anti-gay leaflets in high school students' lockers, the European Court of Human Rights ruled.
     In December 2004, Tor Fredrik Vejdeland, Mattias Harlin, Bjorn Tang and Niklas Lundstrom - then in their teens and 20s - spread leaflets smearing homosexuality as a "deviant sexual proclivity" with a "morally destructive effect on the substance of society."
     The leaflets, put in or on lockers at a high school in Soderhamn, claimed the "homosexual lobby" had downplayed pedophilia and that gay people were responsible for the spread of HIV and AIDS.
     Two years later, Sweden's Supreme Court convicted all four of agitation against a national or ethnic group. Three received suspended sentences plus fines of approximately $260 to $2,600; the fourth got probation.
     They tried to fight the sentences on free expression grounds through the European Court of Human Rights on Jan. 4, 2007.
     A seven-judge tribunal ruled Friday that the Swedish court had acted appropriately.
     "While acknowledging the applicants' right to express their ideas, the Supreme Court had found that the leaflets' statements had been unnecessarily offensive," the European Court of Human Rights summarized in a press release. "It had further emphasised that the applicants had imposed the leaflets on the pupils by leaving them on or in their lockers. The court noted that the pupils had been at an impressionable and sensitive age and that the distribution of the leaflets had taken place at a school which none of the applicants attended and to which they did not have free access."