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Prosecutor Seeks Life Sentence for Man Accused of Killing Palme

July 6, 1989

STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AP) _ The chief prosecutor sought a life sentence Thursday for Christer Pettersson in what he described as the cold-blooded execution of Prime Minister Olof Palme.

Summing up the state case in the monthlong trial, Anders Helin alleged Pettersson followed Palme from a movie theater on Feb. 28, 1986, and shot him in the back from a distance of 4 inches to 8 inches.

Pettersson, a 42-year-old Swede who has served a jail term for manslaughter and who is a known drug and alcohol abuser, denies killing the Swedish leader.

Palme was a four-term prime minister who dominated Swedish politics for more than a decade and earned his country its reputation as an international mediator and champion of world disarmament.

Helin recounted the testimony of Palme’s widow, Lisbeth, and five others who testified they saw Pettersson at the scene of the assassination.

Mrs. Palme, he said, had pointed out Pettersson at a videotaped police lineup and again in the courtroom, after studying pictures of 647 other possible suspects during the three-year manhunt.

He said the verdict could only be first-degree murder, ″when considering that he waited for Olof Palme, that he, to quote the witness (Inge) Morelius, ‘executed him in cold blood with a shot in the back.’

″If the District Court decides it was murder, that means a life prison sentence,″ Helin said.

A life sentence in Sweden usually is remitted to a term of 14 to 20 years, and prison authorities routinely grant paroles, even for serious crimes, after two-thirds of the sentence has been served.

The verdict and sentence will be decided by two judges and six lay jurors, each with an equal vote. Their decision is expected later this month.

Earlier, the court canceled its morning session when defense attorney Arne Liljeros asked to check new evidence he said he got overnight.

Liljeros said the information is intended to give more credibility to the only witness who supported Pettersson’s alibi. The defendant said he was at a suburban train station 17 miles from the scene at the time of the killing. Liljeros said he would address the issue in his summation Monday.

Recreating the night of the killing, Helin said no one knew in advance of Palme’s last-minute plan to go to a movie with his wife. The couple also decided on the spur of the moment to walk home.

He said Pettersson, waiting to make a drug contact, saw the Palmes enter the theater, left to get a gun, and returned to wait for the Swedish leader to emerge.

He followed the couple down Sveavagen street, passed them and waited in ambush at a street corner, the prosecutor said.

After the shooting, Mrs. Palme saw Pettersson twice, Helin said, once when she looked up for help when her husband fell, fatally wounded, and again a few minutes later when he was farther away.

Although she did not see a gun, other witnesses testified that only the Palmes and one other person were at the corner.

The state contends Pettersson is hostile to any authority, and cites this as a motive.