Anna Lindh

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Anna Lindh

Anna Lindh (June 19, 1957September 11, 2003) was a Swedish Social Democratic politician, Minister for the Environment (19941998) and Minister for Foreign Affairs in the Swedish Government, from 1998 until her death.

Anna Lindh was married to Bo Holmberg, the Governor of Södermanland, with whom she had two sons, named David and Filip.


Political career

She was born in Enskede in Stockholm, but grew up outside Enköping, where she became involved in politics at the age of twelve. As she joined the local branch of the Swedish Social Democratic Youth League, protesting against the Vietnam war was one of her top priorities.

Anna Lindh studied at Uppsala University and graduated as a Candidate of Law (jur. kand.) in 1982. The same year she was elected a Member of Parliament, the Riksdag. In 1984 she became the first woman president of the Swedish Social Democratic Youth League. Her six years as president were marked by a strong commitment to international affairs.

She served as a Member of Parliament until 1985 and again from 1998. She was Deputy Mayor of Stockholm 1991–1994 and Minister for the Environment 1994–1998. Following the general election in 1998 she succeeded Lena Hjelm-Wallén as Minister for Foreign Affairs in the new Government. A high point in her career came during the Swedish Presidency of the European Union during the first half of 2001, when she was Chairman of the Council of the European Union, carrying the responsibilities of representing the official foreign policy position for the European Union as a whole.

Anna Lindh was generally seen as one of the prime candidates to succeed Göran Persson as President of the Social Democrats and Prime Minister of Sweden. In the final weeks of her life, she was intensely involved in the pro-Euro campaign preceding the Swedish referendum on the Euro, held on September 14, 2003, only three days after her death. One of the most popular politicians on the pro-Euro side, she was used as a front person, her face on billboards all over Sweden the day she was attacked and murdered.


Anna Lindh died on the early morning of September 11, 2003, following a knife attack in Stockholm on the afternoon of September 10. Just after 4 pm she was attacked while shopping at the Nordiska Kompaniet department store. She was stabbed in the chest, stomach and arms. Following the assault she was rushed to the Karolinska Hospital where she underwent surgery for over nine hours, receiving blood transfusions continually during the operation. Reportedly she suffered copious internal bleeding, her liver was seriously damaged, and her medical situation remained grave, even though at first it appeared to have improved after the surgery. One hour after concluding the initial nine-hour surgery, complications forced resumption of surgery. At 5:29 am local time all attempts to save her life had been exhausted and Anna Lindh was pronounced dead.

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Surveillance photo of Lindh's confessed assassin, Mijailo Mijailovic.

The assassin was able to escape after the crime. According to eyewitness accounts his actions appeared deliberate and systematic. A phone number was set up for anyone who might know anything about the crime, and a massive manhunt was launched in Sweden, centering on Stockholm. After two days, a very interesting image believed to be the assassin was released by the police. This image was taken by a camera on a floor above the scene of the murder.

A few items, pieces of clothing and a knife, believed to be connected with the murder were found outside the department store, in the vicinity of a Stockholm Metro station. At the scene of the crime the police were able to secure a handprint, also believed to be connected to the killer. Images from the department store's surveillance system, showing the suspect, were published on September 13 and September 14.

A man, Per-Olof Svensson was apprehended on September 16 and detained as suspect to the murder on justifiable grounds, the lowest degree of suspicion. On September 24, the Police announced that a new suspect, Mijailo Mijailovic, had been apprehended and arrested, at the higher level of suspicion, probable cause. It is likely that evidence suggests a stronger case against the new suspect. Following the arrest it was announced that the previous suspect had been released. On September 25 it was announced that the DNA-profile of Mijailovic matches that of hairs found on the baseball cap, left at or near the scene of the crime. He also resembles the man filmed in the store where Lindh was attacked.

After previously having denied all involvement, on January 6, 2004, Mijailovic admitted to the deed and gave a full account of the events on September 10, in an extra session of police questioning requested by Peter Althin, Mijailovic's counsel. He was found guilty in the trial from January 14 to January 17, and following the psychiatric evaluation he was sentenced to life imprisonment March 23. However, on July 8, an appeals court overturned Mijailovic's sentence after tests had concluded that he was suffering from a mental illness at the time of the killing. He was then transferred from prison to a closed psychiatric ward. Prosecutors re-appealed into Swedish Supreme Court which eventually on December 2 re-instated the life imprisonment. Mijailovic has then expressed his willingness to be transferred to Serbia, but it is very unlikely that his wish will be granted to him because of safety issues concerning Serbian prisons.

Anna Lindh was the second prominent Swedish politician to be assassinated in recent decades. Prime Minister Olof Palme was shot and killed in 1986 by a (still) unidentified assailant.


left|thumb|200px|Anna Lindh funeral Anna Lindh was an outspoken campaigner for Sweden to join the euro in the referendum held on Sunday, September 14. Following the attack, all euro-campaign events, for both the yes and no camps, were immediately cancelled. Television campaign commercials were withdrawn from broadcasting, all campaign advertising on billboards was to be removed, advertising in printed media cancelled, etc. The assassination was widely interpreted as an attack on the free and open society that is a hallmark for Sweden and that this was a time for unity rather than political campaigning.

Following a meeting, held at midday September 11, with Prime Minister Göran Persson and the leaders of the other political parties in the Riksdag, the decision was taken not to let the assassination affect the schedule of the referendum. Information and resources on the issues of the referendum were to be fully available but no political campaigning or argumentation was to take place. The party leaders unanimously pledged support for holding the ballot as planned and to respect and abide by the outcome. Despite speculations that the sympathy for Lindh could influence the voting behavior, the euro was rejected in the referendum.

Following the death of Mrs. Lindh, the junior minister in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Jan O. Karlsson, was made acting Minister for Foreign Affairs. In October Laila Freivalds was appointed as the successor to Anna Lindh's Cabinet post.

A number of commemorative gatherings were held for Anna Lindh through out Sweden, on September 12September 13. A more formal commemorative gathering was held at Stockholm City Hall on September 19. Speakers at this gathering were, notably, Göran Persson, Prime Minister, Chris Patten, Margot Wallström, European Commissioners, and the Swedish-speaking George Papandreou, Foreign Minister of Greece. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell could not participate because storms prevented his plane from taking off, but he sent his condolences. The burial ceremony was held privately on September 20, at the Church of Ersta in Stockholm. Anna Lindh's grave is in the cemetery of the nearby Katarina kyrka.

See also

Preceded by:
Lena Hjelm-Wallén
Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs
Succeeded by:
Laila Freivalds

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