Saturday 22 January 2011
A Swedish father who was jailed by authorities for taking his son, in state custody because social services workers worried he was being homeschooled, home for a visit has been released from his incarceration.
Word came to WND tonight via an e-mail from Christer Johansson, who said, "I was released from jail today, after 2 terrible months! … When the judge read the verdict, he said, '2 months in jail, already served, 15000 [kroner] in compensation to Domenic and then 2 years probation.'"
The case has been the focal point of work both by the internationally known Home School Legal Defense Association as well as the Alliance Defense Fund, which has brought a case before the European Court of Human Rights on behalf of the family.
"You've Decided to Homeschool, Now What?"
The case developed in mid-2009 when social services and police forcibly took custody of Domenic, then 7, over government concerns he was being homeschooled. The local courts later denied the parents the legal representation they sought, demanding instead they be represented by a government-approved attorney. The courts ultimately ruled the state must keep custody of Domenic.
Ruby Harrold-Claesson, the president of the Nordic Committee for Human Rights, had been working on the family's case but was ordered off by the court in favor of a locally appointed representative the family opposed.
She said she is concerned that the ECHR hasn't already stepped into the family's case.
Johansson told WND that he read his Bible throughout today's court hearing, and he remains weak after being in jail since Thanksgiving.
"The last thing Domenic said to me was, 'Daddy, what I fear the most is to go back to the foster family! He then told the police twice, 'I don't want to go. I don't want to go.' Did they listen? No," he said."
He also called the psychiatric evaluation he was given during his time behind bars "a joke."
Michael Donnelly, a senior official with the HSLDA, told WND that, "HSDLA is pleased that Mr. Johansson has been released from the Swedish prison after nearly two months. We are grateful for the hundreds of letters from American homeschoolers and others around the world that were sent both to the judge and to Mr. Johansson over the past two months. Mr. Johansson told me in phone conversations while in jail that these letters along with his faith 'made all the difference' to him being able to keep up his spirits."
But Donnelly also had words for Swedish officials who have pursued the family.
"The inhumanity of Swedish authorities in retaining Domenic Johansson in foster care with virtually no visitation from his parents remains a grave concern for our organization," he said. "The failure by provincial and national authorities to investigate and rectify a scandalous abuse of power on the part of Gotland municipal authorities and social workers makes Sweden look more like a former Soviet totalitarian state than a Western free and democratic one."
He said there are other families, too, facing tribulation over their desire to teach their own children.
"We are pleased today that Mr. Johansson is free but will not forget that Domenic remains incarcerated in the country’s foster care system – kidnapped over a year and a half ago by Swedish authorities for no reason other than that the family homeschooled him. Swedish authorities have driven a spike into the heart of this family, continuing to inflict physical and emotional pain on Domenic's mother and father, grandparents and other relatives who have been not permitted to see him or to enjoy their rights as a family. It is impossible to fathom how a free nation that is often held up to the world as a model for freedom and justice can tolerate such callous indifference to the monumental suffering of the Johansson family for no credible reason," he said.
It was in an earlier court hearing in Gotland when Johansson was accused of kidnapping or unlawful detention for the Thanksgiving week incident in which he took his son, now 9, with him following a social services-supervised visit.
The government took custody of Domenic in mid-2009 when police officers stormed a jetliner which the family had boarded en route to a move to India, the home country for Domenic's mother, Annie Johansson.
The case also is being followed by the blog called FriendsofDomenic.
Its report today said the evaluation of Johansson found him "to be psychologically sound" in direct opposition to accusations from Gotland social services workers in the case.
The Alliance Defense Fund, an international public interest law team, has explained the latest controversy.
Gustaf Hofstedt, president of the local social services board in Gotland, earlier told WND by telephone from Sweden that there is more to the dispute than homeschooling, but he refused to explain.
"I understand the public debate has been that is a case that is only concerning the fact of homeschooling," he told WND. "But that is not the case."
Asked to explain, he said, "I can't answer that question because of secrecy."