An appeals court in the Philippines has rejected an appeal by Swedes Stefan Sederholm, 33, and Andrew Solemo, 37, with a request for a new trial. They are now left several more years in prison before the Supreme Court may take up the case.
The Swedes were sentenced to life in prison on May 10, 2011, convicted of trafficking.
Sederholm and Solemo had along with three Filipino citizens launched a so-called cyber-brothel with operations in an industrial park outside the city of Cagayan de Oro.
Operations began in early 2009. Some 20 Filipino women were hired to pose naked and masturbate in front of webcams with customers paying to watch worldwide. The customers would buy time with the women and express their desire for sexual activities. The women were paid about SEK 2500 per month, equivalent to the salary of a regular office job in the Philippines.
As early as April 23, 2009, the police raided the business and three Filipino men were arrested. The Swedes were arrested when they arrived by plane to the Philippines on the same day. This type of online sexual service is not illegal in the Philippines but when the police raided the cyber brothel, one of the women claimed that she was posing in front of the camera against her will.
Arrested in May, 2009, now charged with human trafficking, the two Swedes were placed in the notorious Lumbia Jail. The trial against the Swedes and the three Filipinos began in February 2011. The sentence came on May 10 of that year: life imprisonment for Andreas Solemo and Stefan Sederholm. The three Filipino citizens received 20 years imprisonment. The two Swedes have since been relocated to the Davao Penal Colony
The Swedes have now turned to the Swedish Foreign Ministry with a request for financial assistance in order to obtain a new lawyer.
The denied request of a new trial will be appealed to the Philippine Supreme Court. A process that takes several years. Meanwhile, Solemo and Sederholm remain in Davao Penal Colony.
Andreas Solemo and Stefan Sederholm consider themselves to be the victims of a political verdict, and believe that the severe punishment is a way for the Philippines to make an example, showing that they come down hard on human trafficking.
“The absolute worst is that we are convicted of a terrible crime, which is very far from the truth. Now we are sitting here for life and quite frankly I am having a hard time seeing that they will ever release us,” said Stefan Sederholm to TV4’s Kalla Fakta last year.
Should the Swedes fail in their appeal, they will be forced to sit somewhere between 20 and 30 years in prison before they might be pardoned.