Swedish man faces rape charge for alleged online sex crimes with girls

A 41-year-old man in Sweden who allegedly coerced girls from the U.S., Canada and Scotland into performing sexual acts in front of a webcam could be convicted of rape even though he wasn’t in the same room as his victims.

No one has been convicted of rape in Sweden for sexual crimes committed via the internet, but tomorrow Sweden's Uppsala District Court will decide if this man's alleged crimes are an act of rape. Twenty-four of the 27 victims are American, according to Annika Wennerström, public prosecutor at the International Public Prosecution Office in Stockholm. Swedish prosecutors have not named the man.

She said in a statement that "in such a serious crime as this one, it could be rape even if the suspect is not present in the same room where the sexual acts are performed.”

Of the 27 victims, 18 were identified. All 18 victims were 15 years old or younger when the crimes were committed, Swedish prosecutors said.

"We have done research and interviewed victims and found that children are just as traumatized from online assault as physical assault," Wennerström told ABC News. "Actually, the online assault is even worse because the assault takes place in their rooms."

From his home in Sweden, the man allegedly made contact with the girls via social media, Wennerström said. He researched the girls and used information such as where they lived to threaten to hurt them and some of their family members, she said. That's how he persuaded the girls to perform the sexual acts that he recorded, she explained.

"The girls were really terrified because they didn't know where he was and if he was really going to come for them," said Wennerström. In court, she argued that he should be convicted of at least 10 years in prison.

"In Sweden, that is a lot," she said. "Maybe that's not realistic, but that's what we think is appropriate."

The man has been indicted on charges of aggravated child rape, aggravated sexual abuse of children, exploitation of children for sexual posing, child pornography crimes among others.

The man's defense lawyer, Kronje Samuelsson, told Swedish media that he does not believe that someone can be convicted of rape if they are not in the same room as the victim.

"As we understand it, as the court of appeal has ruled [in a different case], if you are not in the same room then you cannot be convicted of rape," Samuelsson said.

The United Nations and FBI estimate that 750,000 child predators are online at any given time. It is difficult to know how many of them persuade children to perform sexual acts online, but law enforcement officials say that the predator population is huge – and increasing faster than they can catch perpetrators.

© 2017 ABC News


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