An LGBT activist who was convicted of raping and sexually abusing several male asylum seekers has had his prison sentence reduced by a Swedish court following an appeal.
Pablo Leiva was handed a four-year prison sentence after being convicted of five rapes and two counts of sexual assaults on male asylum seekers between 2018 and 2019, while he worked as a migration consultant for the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex Rights (RFSL) in Stockholm, SVT Nyheter reports.
The district court’s judgment noted Leiva’s victims were under the impression that he had decisive influence over whether their asylum applications were approved, and that he used his position of authority along with the plaintiff’s anxieties to take advantage of them. According to one of the prosecuting lawyers, the victims had “been given the impression that participation in intercourse was a prerequisite for receiving such help and advice”.
Last week, however, the Court of Appeals – after taking into consideration that Leiva had lost his job as a result of the case – announced that his prison sentence had been reduced to three years and four months. Moreover, the appeal court questioned whether two of the rape counts had been voluntary or not, saying the evidence, which mainly consisted of oral evidence in the form of interrogations with the victims and witnesses, failed to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the asylum seekers participated unwillingly. As a result, those two counts were ultimately dropped.
“Even though we have come to the conclusion that the situation for the asylum-seeking men does not reach the requirement for a particularly vulnerable situation, the RFSL employee has in a proposal and ruthlessly taken advantage of the difficult situation the men have been in,” said prosecutor Christina Brobacke in response to the court’s verdict.
Majeed Alnashi, the lawyer representing one of the plaintiffs whose accusations of sexual assault were dismissed, lamented the court’s decision, saying that he would be taking his client’s case to the Swedish supreme court for further examination.
Before his arrest last December, Pablo Leiva had been employed at RFSL Stockholm’s office for multiple decades. More specifically, Leiva had been working in the organization’s project “Newcomers”, which “offers activities, information, and counseling in a safe place” for LGBTQ asylum seekers and immigrants.
According to a separate report from the Swedish state-funded broadcaster SVT, management at RFSL first became made aware of Leiva’s behavior when an asylum seeker reported the abuse in July of 2019. Despite this fact, however, the organization didn’t file a police report until ten months later, citing a lack of witnesses and evidence.
Earlier this year in March, when the case first made headlines, a volunteer at RFSL told the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet that, as far back as 2017, he heard from asylum seekers that they refused to visit the Leiva’s office without company, because “otherwise he closes the door and insists that you do sexual things with him”.