The Swedes Have the Pirate Bay's Co-Founder in Solitary Confinement

By Patrick McGuire

After covering the Kafkaesque nightmare of the Pirate Bay’s current legal predicament and the apparent infowar against pirates in Sweden, it appears that Gottfrid Svartholm—one of the Pirate Bay’s founders—has now been sent to solitary confinement in Sweden.

If you’ve been following along, Gottfrid was extradited from Cambodia back to Sweden after dodging a one-year prison sentence he owed the Swedes for running the Pirate Bay. In addition, he’s been charged with hacking into a Swedish IT consultancy firm called Logica. It seems that those charges are what’s keeping Gottfrid in an extended detention period before even facing a trial for these new hacking charges. This seems like an extreme measure to take against a non-violent offender who has not been tried for half of the accusations that have been laid against him. Maybe it’s to keep a skinny, bearded hacker away from hardened criminals, but if Torrentfreak is correct (and that’s always a dice roll), he’s currently locked down for 23 hours a day.

In an effort to investigate a Swedish legal matter from Canada, I reached out to my pal Rick Falkvinge who founded the Swedish Pirate Party. It just so happens that Rick lives right beside the institution where Gottfrid is being held. You can see Rick’s photo of the sleek mega-jail below. The building labeled “Sollentuna” is a shopping center.

Since Gottfrid Svartholm has no access to computers or any type of media whatsoever, the interview requests that I’ve tried to float out to him have fallen on deaf and imprisoned ears. Rick, a “trained telegrapher from the Army,” even tried to reach Gottfrid via Morse code for me. In an email, Rick explained: “I tried Morse code using the flashlight on my cellphone, and I could see the reflection of my light in the mirrored windows of the jail building, so I'm certain it could be seen from there. Whether Gottfrid is held on this side of the facility, was awake and looking out the window, is of course another matter.”

Over email, I also spoke to Kristina Svartholm, Gottfrid’s mother, regarding her son’s detention. Kristina has set up an email address where fans, followers, supporters, and whoever else can send Gottfrid letters in jail. I asked Kristina why she thinks Gottfrid has been placed into solitary, and she replied: “the prosecutor has claimed that Gottfrid could destroy evidence, disturb the investigation, and even commit crimes if he wasn't being held in custody with these restrictions... I wish to point out that there are two more persons involved in the same hack thing that he is suspected of now. Both have been kept in custody earlier but both are free now, presumably free to do whatever they wish. This makes the need for ‘solitary confinement’ even more puzzling.”

When I asked her if she thought that legislation regarding these supposed informational crimes that occur online should be changed, she was firm about the ridiculousness of Gottfrid’s extreme detention: “I feel ashamed of Sweden now that I realize what the Swedish rules permit as to keeping people in custody under conditions like these. No one should be kept away from communication with other people for this long—close to six weeks by now—especially not without knowing when the isolation ends. A UN expert on torture condemned such action a year ago—to me that is enough for changing legislation; for the Swedish government and its Ministry of Justice it is obviously not.”


Julian Assange talking at London's Ecuadorian embassy a couple of months back.

It’s impossible not to compare Gottfrid Svartholm’s detention to Julian Assange, the man behind WikiLeaks, being stuck in Ecuador’s embassy in London for five months and counting. Both men are at least, in part, the brains behind the world’s two largest portals of information that openly offend the copyright and confidentiality laws of most civilized countries. Both men are also being accused by Sweden of crimes that are completely separate from their involvement with these sites. Neither Gottfrid’s hacking charges, nor Julian Assange’s sex crime charges (supposedly, he forced sex upon a woman, bareback, while she was sleeping, after having consensual sex with her earlier that day), have been properly heard in court.

As the Guardian reported, Assange’s desperate attempts to prevent extradition to Sweden for his alleged sex charges were based on the country’s “very unusual and quite oppressive pre-trial detention powers.” He is also worried of being extradited to the US for charges against WikiLeaks. While Gottfrid does owe the Swedish government a one-year sentence for the Pirate Bay, the prolonged detention that is associated with his supposed hacking into the Swedish Logica is a completely separate matter.

The reasoning for this seemingly open-ended and inhumane solitary confinement is very unclear, and the extreme measures that the governments of the Western world love to inflict upon copyright violators, information rebels and hackers, is worrying for the future of an open, democratic and free internet. In the meantime, the Pirate Bay is still going strong. Instead of keeping their servers in one physical location, they’ve spread their hosting out across multiple cloud servers all around the world, which is going to make shutting down the Pirate Bay an international effort and a highly complicated legal procedure that won't be happening any time soon.

Follow Patrick on Twitter: @patrickmcguire

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