Five men are on trial in Luleå in northern Sweden, suspected of illegally hunting and killing of four bears, three lynx and one wolverine.
The case is said to be this biggest of its kind ever in Sweden.
The animals have either been shot, or caught in traps or snares. Five of the animals are reported to have been tortured to death. Prosecutor Christer Jarlås tells Swedish Radio that they have seen several similar cases over the past few years, but they never went to trial due to lack of evidence.
“If I compare it to other cases that we have had in the past, there is now significantly more concrete evidence in this case than we have had perhaps ever before,” Jarlås said.
Wire-tapped phones were central in the police investigation, which last summer lead to some 50 police officers intervening simultaneously at several localtions, arresting the five suspects and searching their homes, hunting huts, garages and cars for evidence. As the case now opens in court, the prosecution relies on recorded phone-calls, pictures and footage of the trapped and dead animals, text message conversations, confiscated illegal weapons, snares, traps and dog collars outfitted with GPS.
The five stand trial on a total of 23 counts of suspected aggravated hunting offences, handling illegal goods, and weapons crimes. They all deny any wrong-doing.
Related stories from around the North:
Canada: Former Canadian police officer headed to jail for smuggling narwhal tusks to U.S., Eye on the Arctic
Denmark: Reinstilling pride in the Inuit seal hunt, Eye on the Arctic
Finland: Moose on the loose: Peak crash season approaches in Finland, Yle News
Greenland: What the EU seal ban has meant for Inuit communities in the Arctic, Eye on the Arctic
Iceland: Feature Interview – Hunting culture under stress in Arctic, Eye on the Arctic
Russia: Russia declares another indigenous group ‘foreign agent’, The Independent Barents Observer
Sweden: European sealskin ban affects Sámi handicraft workers, Radio Sweden
United States: Ivory bans in contiguous U.S. hit Alaska Native carvers hard, Alaska Dispatch