Lund university is complicit in a politically-motivated lynching campaign in Turkey.
INFORMATION REGARDING THE VIOLATION OF MY CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS AS A SWEDISH CITIZEN AND DISCRIMINATION BY LUND UNIVERSITY
LUND UNIVERSITY VIOLATED MY RIGHT NOT TO BE SUBJECT TO DEFAMATION
by enabling, indeed actively encouraging, one of their employees to identify me “as being a criminal or as having a reprehensible way of life” and by providing “information liable to expose [me] to the contempt of others” as defined by The Swedish Criminal Code (Chapter 5, Sections 1 and 2). The university did this in two ways:
1. It issued a legally non-binding and unappealable document which contravened the provisions of the Work Environment Act (1977: 1160) and failed in its duty to prevent ill health, leaving me exposed to a systematic campaign of online harassment and violence while I was still employed by the university (my legal representative had to inform the Swedish Security Service, SÄPO, given the seriousness of these threats). Even though it was neither “a punishment” nor “disciplinary measure”, the document was treated as such, and used by the employee in question to publicly name and shame me in collaboration with pro-government media in Turkey which declared me a “terrorist pervert”, leading the Chief Prosecutor of the Turkish Republic to start an official investigation regarding the allegations. In her official testimony given on May 8, 2022, the employee accused the Swedish police of non-action and asked the Turkish state to prosecute me.
2. It shared material related to an internal investigation with an online news platform with 1.7 million followers, though it was under no obligation to do so, thereby ignoring my repeated official and unofficial requests to respect confidentiality. It is indicative that the employee in question was found guilty on 6 counts of “gross defamation” and 1 count of “defamation” (out of a total of 11 counts) by Lund District Court Criminal Section (case no B 6064-20) and on 3 counts of gross defamation” and 1 count of “defamation” by the Court of Appeals of Skåne and Blekinge (case no. B 3866-21). The ruling deemed that “there is no obligation, legal or employment-wise, to submit the information”, and stated that the employee “is convicted of a crime which is punishable by imprisonment”. Therefore, she will pay penalties to the state, the statutory fee to the Fund for Victims of Crime and damages to me (see full decision here). The decision entered into legal force on November 3, 2022, following Swedish Supreme Court’s decision not to further review the case (case no. B 4956-22).
LUND UNIVERSITY VIOLATED MY RIGHT TO A FAIR AND THOROUGH WORKPLACE INVESTIGATION AND LED TO MY VICTIMIZATION
defined as “actions in an abusive manner at one or more employees that may lead to ill health or to exclusion from the workplace community” by the Swedish Work Authority’s Statute Book (AFS 2015: 4). Rather than taking measures to eliminate conditions that could give rise to victimization, the employer, in this case Christofer Edling (the Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences) and Andréa Björk (the Human Resources Manager of the Faculty of Social Sciences) actively contributed to the deterioration of my mental health, treating me as a “scapegoat” and encouraging “acts of rejection” by fellow employees. The employer also breached the Statute Book’s stipulation that work environment problems should be “investigated by someone who has adequate expertise, is able to act impartially, and is trusted by the involved parties” (AFS 2015: 4). The so-called “psycho-social investigation” carried out by Margaretha Brundin of OMNIA Utvecklingskonsulter KB considerably exceeded the statutory mission of “finding out what happened” and took on the role of a law enforcement authority “identifying criminals and assigning punishment”. The report prepared by Brundin was itself defamatory since it described my behaviour as “stalking” — which is a crime in Sweden — despite several police reports to the contrary.
The “fact-finding” itself was nothing more than what is sometimes referred to as “extrajudicial mock trial” (for a summary, see my legal representative’s letter to the faculty): (i) I was never informed about the content and nature of the allegations, so I was denied my right to defend myself properly; (ii) available evidence was never shared with me, my union representatives and later my legal representatives during or after the investigation; (iii) the allegations were not backed by evidence. In fact, what was submitted as evidence was rejected by the police which stated that “the information provided in the case does not give reason to assume that crimes that fall under public prosecution have been committed” (diarienr: 5000-K634062-20); (iv) I was pressured into going to the interviews with the external consultant alone, without my union representative or lawyer; (v) the interviews and the final meeting were not recorded; (vi) the external consultant misquoted the former Director of CMES, Leif Stenberg (as confirmed by himself in writing) to create the impression that I have a penchant for “behaving unprofessionally”; (vii) neither the external consultant nor the faculty took the exculpatory evidence I submitted during the investigation into account; (viii) I was never informed that there was a complaint by a male employee who claimed that he “heard” that I “threatened” him; (ix) I and my then union representative, Mattias Collin, were misled by Christofer Edling who told us that the complaint in question was not taken seriously by the faculty, hence was not investigated. He also assured us that this was not included in the final document; (x) the final document was in Swedish. I was thus not able to read and comment on it during the meeting. I had it translated into English through my own means and discovered that the complaint by the male co-worker was indeed included in the document; (xi) my request to reply to the accusations cited in the decision was met with further threats and bullying, i.e. “acts that are experienced as violating or in another way undesirable by the person or persons who are subjected to them” as defined by the Swedish Work Environment Authority. Hence in an email sent to me on June 14, 2018, Andréa Björk wrote: “Again, we must remind you of that these matters calls for caution, please think through consequences so that it is not harmful to the workplace nor work environment. Would also like to remind you of that, under no circumstances, it is allowed to subject reprisals in relation to those who reported you”(my italics); (xii) the faculty did not accommodate my special circumstances, or what is referred to as “grievances” in customary law — in this case, my 5-year old son’s terminal illness — which might have required the investigation to be temporarily suspended. This personal predicament not only compromised my ability to defend myself, mentally as well as physically for I was commuting between Lund and Barcelona where my son was receiving treatment; it also prevented me from taking further actions against the university’s decision. My son died at the age of 5,5 on July 5, 2018, one month after the investigation was concluded; (xiii) apart from a passing reference in her analysis, the external consultant did not take the existing conflict of interest between me and the former Director of CMES, Dalia Abdelhady, into account. She also ignored my warnings as to CMES management’s possible interference with the investigation by mobilizing several male CMES students to recruit other female students to the defamation campaign.
LUND UNIVERSITY VIOLATED MY CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT OF PUBLIC ACCESS TO OFFICIAL DOCUMENTS
by withholding 86-pages of documents submitted as part of the so-called “psycho-social investigation”. In fact, the university persistently denied the existence of these documents for four years, despite a request by me (on June 8, 2018) and three official requests by my legal representatives Olof Bexell (on October 10, 2018) and Sebastian Scheiman (on October 28, 2021 and November 1, 2021). In all these cases, the faculty sent 13-pages of documents related to the investigation. It was only when T24, an online news platform in Turkey with 1.7 million followers, published these documents in a series of 7 articles between October 21, 2021 and December 12, 2021, that we became aware of the documents in question which consisted mainly of private Whatsapp and Messenger conversations between me and your employee. Since the documents were not submitted to the court either, my lawyer contacted Lund University and asked whether they have the missing documents in their possession. In an email sent on October 28, 2021, Andréa Björk reiterated that no such documents existed. On November 1, 2021, Sebastian requested all the material related to the investigations conducted by the university. This email was also forwarded to Human Resources (email@example.com), Malou Engberg de Carvalho (Head of the Faculty Office) and Cecilia Hagström (Human Resources Coordinator).
We now know that Andréa Björk has been repeatedly providing incorrect information for four years. An interim decision by the public prosecutor of Istanbul regarding our criminal complaint about the T24 articles on December 13, 2022 states that “there is an envelope sent by Lund University to T24.com.tr, this envelope contains a file which includes material related to the investigation conducted by the university and private conversations between the complainant [me] and [your employee]” (Investigation No: 2022/82397; Decision No: 2022/129493). The file submitted to the state prosecutor includes an email exchange between Andréa Björk and the author of these articles on November 4-5, 2022 (despite attempts to redact the documents, the email address and the name of the sender are visible). On November 4, 2022, Andréa Björk wrote: “Dear Sema. The university will send you copies of the two cases by regular mail. I am not sure what photo stamp means but we will had (sic) them out according to our routines. Certain information have been secrecy marked. Lund University will also charge a fee for the copies, 248 SEK + cost for postage. Due to the information above, are you still interested in the copies? If so I will need information for the invoicing for the fee. We will need full address and name. Best regards”. The file also includes an invoice issued by Lund University to be paid by December 19, 2021, with Andréa Björk as the reference of the university (Björk’s name is not redacted this time), to Sema Kaygusuz (the author of the T24 articles) at the following address: T24 (Medya), C/O Ahmet Dogan Akin, Istanbul, Turkey.
On November 8, 2021, Andréa Björk sent an email to my lawyer Sebastian Scheiman and admitted that they actually had the missing files. In short, I received the relevant material precisely 1327 days after they were submitted!
Though this may look like a routine transaction, the following questions remain: did Lund University have the missing documents or were they added to the investigation file in 2021, i.e. to enable your employee to claim that these conversations were already in the public domain, hence to protect her from further criminal prosecution in Sweden and Turkey? If Lund University had these documents since 2018, why were we told persistently that they did not exist? How could a public institution withhold documents that relate to my investigation from me and my legal representatives? Is this not a breach of the Public Access to Information and Secrecy Act (2020) and the Public Employment Act (1994: 260)? And how could a public employee, in this case Andréa Björk, share these documents with an online news platform with 1.7 million followers despite my request for confidentiality as early as April 9, 2018? Was Andréa Björk aware that these documents were being used as part of an ongoing defamation campaign (the first 2 articles of the series were already published before Lund University dispatched the documents)? Did Andréa Björk know that the employee in question was convicted on 7 out of 11 counts of gross defamation and defamation by Lund District Court at that point, and that she was on “probation” (villkorlig dom), which means that she could not have published those documents herself? Was Björk aiding and abetting someone to circumvent a criminal conviction in Sweden?
LUND UNIVERSITY DISCRIMINATED AGAINST ME ON THE BASIS OF ETHNICITY AND GENDER
by hiring an unprofessional and prejudiced external consultant who wrote the following in her final report: “The adaptations that need to be made from one cultural context to another do not seem to have been made fully”, insinuating that I — a Swedish citizen who raised a child in Sweden co-parenting with a Swedish mother (who testified in court against your employee) — have not been able to adapt to Swedish culture (p. 3). This is a textbook example of “direct discrimination”, in this case on the basis of ethnicity, which the Discrimination Act (2008: 567) defines as follows: “that someone is disadvantaged by being treated less favourably than someone else is treated, has been treated or would have been treated in a comparable situation, if this disadvantaging is associated with sex, transgender identity or expression, ethnicity, religion or other belief, disability, sexual orientation or age”. The report also includes statements made by Spyros A. Sofos (p. 2), a co-worker the consultant interviewed, e.g. that “alcohol consumption with students and spending times in the homes of seniors” are not “generally applicable, but understands that these are Turkish university standards that [I] imported”. Even the most basic background check on the issue would have revealed that this was not an accurate representation of CMES reality (the center itself organized at least two parties per year to intermingle students and staff). More problematically, what do the third co-worker and the external consultant who quotes him approvingly mean by “Turkish university standards” that I allegedly imported? Are they suggesting that I was somehow unable to adapt to (superior?) “Swedish university standards” by dint of my ethnic background? Does this apply to other employees of Lund University who are not born in Sweden?
The report also commits “indirect discrimination” on the basis of ethnicity and gender, by applying “a provision, a criterion or a procedure that appears neutral but that may put people of a certain sex, a certain transgender identity or expression, a certain ethnicity, a certain religion or other belief, a certain disability, a certain sexual orientation or a certain age at a particular disadvantage”. Did the external consultant know, in an incident reported by Spyros A. Sofos — who happened to be the Research Coordinator at CMES at the time — that he was himself having drinks with a postdoctoral researcher from CMES with whom he was romantically involved (this was public knowledge)? Did the co-worker mention in his interview that he also had an intimate relationship with a master’s degree student and later affiliated researcher at CMES (this was also public knowledge)? How could a research coordinator who controls information about research grants and fellowships have an intimate relationship with a postdoctoral research fellow, a student and an affiliated researcher despite the obvious power dynamics? Is this the “Swedish standard” that I allegedly failed to adapt to? Or was Spyros A. Sofos subject to differential treatment?
And if “spending times in the homes of seniors” is an example of unprofessional behaviour as the external consultant seemed to suggest, why was Anders Ackfeldt, a researcher at CMES and CTR (Centre for Theology and Religious Studies) at Lund University, who was with us in my home on the evening of February 22, 2018, not also given a document titled “Misconduct – Clarification of Obligations”? Is it a coincidence that Anders Ackfeldt was indeed the person who relayed the so-called “threat” to the male co-worker, Andreas Johansson (currently a senior lecturer at Karlstad University) — the subject of the third complaint that was never investigated or shared with us? Was this an attempt on the part of Anders Ackfeldt to avert a possible disciplinary action? Was Andreas Johansson simply trying to protect his friend?
This was also discrimination on the basis of gender since the complainant was also of Turkish origin, but was never accused of not being able to adapt to “Swedish standards”, even though she had only lived in Sweden for just over six months. Gender-based discrimination was also in full display when I filed a complaint of harassment against her to the faculty on October 30, 2018, which was dealt with “internally”, and without having a single meeting with me. The resulting document stated that “Both parties have kept themselves informed about the other party via social media. Both parties have also spoken or otherwise communicated with others about their experiences in a negative way”, but only one party was reminded of the obligation to contribute to a good work environment. Does this mean that acts like sending emails to the Directors, Rectors and Human Resources of institutions a Lund University employee is affiliated with during his sabbatical or contacting journalists and colleagues to tell them not to collaborate with that employee are acceptable if they are committed by a female employee? How would an external consultant, say Margaretha Brundin of OMNIA Utvecklingskonsulter KB who did not hesitate to use the term “stalking” in an ostensibly objective, fact-finding report, characterize the following excerpt from the female employee’s complaint? “I was made aware of his tweets about how he has helped academics from Turkey and he was disappointed, how he was on a sabbatical (which does not exist in Swedish academia), how he liked having an office in different cities like the sailor who has a girl in every port, how he has posted, shamelessly, about the #metoo movement as a harasser himself. Nonetheless, these are his posts and I have nothing to share about them in my complaint letter” (my italics; needless to say, no such posts exist, and in any case, this person in blocked from all my social media accounts).
On another occasion, the faculty not only ignored several complaints made by students and staff against a female co-worker, Dalia Abdelhady, during her time as Director of Studies at CMES, but promoted her to the position of the Director despite strong opposition by co-workers and union representatives. It is indicative that Margaretha Brundin brushed aside these complaints when they were mentioned during her interview with Spyros A. Sofos who apparently noted that “students have sometimes helped out with private chores for senior members of staff, such as babysitting and walking the dog”. The documents I obtained through freedom of information requests show that the complaints were not limited to hiring a student representative for dog sitting, but included mobbing, bullying, favouritism and not taking the complaints or meetings about these complaints seriously — leading the then Student Coordinator Tina Robertsson to write the following (p. 7): “Hi Leif. This was really stupid (dumt). It wasn’t just that she twice ignored to fill in the doodle I sent out, without even bothering to answer at all … I am quite sure that this will cause us to lose business and trickle up to the vice-chancellor”. Why was Dalia Abdelhady never given a document titled “Misconduct – Clarification of Obligations”, but rather rewarded with a promotion?
Once again, I was unable to take further action and bring all this to the attention of the Discrimination Ombudsman (DO) within the required two years as I was suffering from PTSD due to the death of my son.
LUND UNIVERSITY INFRINGED MY INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS
by refusing to acknowledge that the original idea for the Marie Curie funded research project FIRE was mine, as confirmed by your employee — the principal investigator of the project — and turning a blind eye to the fact I was coerced to step down from my position as the supervisor of a project which was granted €185,857.20 (I was also the co-author of the proposal which received funding; grant agreement ID: 796086). A copy of this threat, which stated that your employee would file a complaint of harassment if I fail to step down, was officially submitted to the external consultant and the faculty on two separate occasions. This threat, which could have been the motive behind the initial complaint, was never investigated, even though Spyros A. Sofos who relayed the message was interviewed by the external consultant (there is no mention of this threat in “the brief summary of the interview with the third co-worker” submitted to the faculty).
It is important to note here that the Marie Curie FIRE project pledged to comply with ethical principles as set out, for instance, in the European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity. The Code states that “Reviewers and editors respect the rights of authors and applicants, and seek permission to make use of the ideas, data or interpretations presented” (p. 7). Failure to do so could also be considered as a form of plagiarism defined as “using other people’s work and ideas without giving proper credit to the original source, thus violating the rights of the original author(s) to their intellectual outputs” (p. 8). Last certainly not least, the Code cites “Accusing a researcher of misconduct or other violations in a malicious way” as one form of violation of research integrity (p. 8). When this occurs, “In their most serious forms, unacceptable practices are sanctionable” (p. 9; all italics are mine).
A POSSIBLE MISMANAGEMENT OF FUNDS?
Related to points 1, 2 and 5 above, the employee in question sent an email to the European Commission on June 8, 2020, stating that she filed “a complaint at Lund University against [me] for (sexual) harassment … I feel that I have failed to produce what I was supposed to produce as a Marie Curie fellow, I am extremely upset and I feel that I had to waste such a prestigious grant simply because I had to protect myself from a stalker/harasser in the last 2.5 years” (my italics). Christofer Edling, Ronny Berndtsson, the former Director of CMES, and Emma Ohlsson, Human Resources Coordinator, were also copied to this email. This raises several questions: Were Petter Pilesjö, the supervisor of the project, and Lina Eklund, who is referred to the co-researcher of the project, aware of this email? Did Christofer Edling inform the commission that their own investigations — however flawed — found no evidence of “sexual harassment” or a “harassment” which had been ongoing for 2,5 years (Edling’s testimony to Lund District Court can be accessed here. See also the court’s final decision)? Does the commission know that the employee in question has been found guilty on 3 counts of gross defamation and 1 count of defamation in a court of law? Are Swedish and European taxpayers aware that €185,857.20 was “wasted”, to use the employee’s terms, by someone allegedly protecting herself from a non-existent “stalker/harasser” for 2.5 years, with the silent approval of a total of at least five public employees at Lund University? And how was the €14,400 earmarked as “mobility allowance” spent given that “due to various reasons, the PI of the project [your employee] was unable to cover all the cases initially proposed”, as stated on the official website of the FIRE project (p. 2)?