Malaysian couple charged with hitting their child in Sweden after weeks in remand
A social media campaign to free the pair, held on remand for weeks, has 20,000 followers
A Malaysian couple have been charged in a Stockholm court with assaulting one of their children in 2012, under laws prohibiting corporal punishment.
The couple, held on remand since December, are accused of beating all four of their children, now aged seven to 14, over a three-year period but have been formally charged with the assault and battery of only one of them.
Corporal punishment has been illegal in Sweden since 1979, and organisations in contact with children are required to report any suspicions of assault.
The case was reported by staff at the international school the children attended since the family moved to Sweden when the father was assigned to work at Malaysia's tourist authority.
When their parents were arrested the children were taken into care and later allowed to join relatives in Malaysia.
"I judge that the details the children gave the police in videotaped interviews is trustworthy," prosecutor Anna Arnell wrote. "Together with other witnesses and items seized at their house, there is good supporting evidence for the charges."
The parents allegedly used their hands as well as items including a whisk, a belt and a bamboo cane to beat the children on the face, neck and body.
Defence lawyer Kristofer Stahre, who represents the children's mother, said she was relieved that the charges had been brought and that she looked forward to proving her innocence.
"The defence has problems with the way the police interviewed the children, the way they used leading questions," he said.
He said it was unusual to hold the suspects on remand for such a long period, given that their children had been taken from them and the alleged crime could not continue.
The case has received intense media attention in Malaysia where corporal punishment is not illegal and a social media campaign to free the couple has attracted nearly 20,000 followers.
One columnist writing in the Malaysian daily The Star called Sweden's long remand period "a travesty of universal justice".
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak personally welcomed the children on their return to the country on February 1 and offered his support to the parents.
The trial is scheduled for February 18.