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Swedes Note Anniversary of Palme's Death

March 01, 1987|From Times Wire Services

STOCKHOLM — Swedes stood in line in 14-degree weather to lay flowers at the site where Prime Minister Olof Palme was shot one year ago Saturday in a still unsolved assassination.

Hundreds of somber Swedes grieved openly on Sveavagen, the city's main thoroughfare, where the 59-year-old Palme was killed while strolling home with his wife, Lisbet, from a movie theater.

"It's so sad. I still can't believe it's true," said Sven Andersson, 63, who placed a rose among hundreds in a vase flanked by the red and yellow flags of Palme's Social Democratic Party.

Palme was a four-term prime minister, an international champion of disarmament and Third World causes and leader of the party for 17 years.

The ceremonies were low-key. No foreign dignitaries were invited, and no extraordinary security precautions were in evidence.

An evening torchlight procession, joined by 15,000 mourners, paraded past the assassination site.

A memorial concert and a church service, where speakers included Prime Minister Ingvar Carlsson, Palme's successor, were also held.

The theme of the memorial program was "For Peace Against Violence and Racism." The Stockholm ceremonies were the largest of more than 100 held across Sweden.

The Social Democrats said they were marking the anniversary by "pursuing Palme's legacy" rather than "looking back with pain."

The murder site on Sveavagen, marked with heaps of roses and carnations since the fateful night, was once again strewn with mountains of flowers. Three standard bearers representing the Social Democrats stood at attention guarding the spot.

Candles burned around the floral tributes. In shop windows, portraits of Palme were wreathed in black gauze.

A group of seven Japanese Buddhists, dressed in yellow and white, provided an incongruous spectacle at the murder site and at the nearby graveside, where they beat drums and sang mourning songs in the bright sunshine.

At Adolf Fredrik churchyard, party officials placed flowers on Palme's grave. No speeches were made during the noontime ceremony.

Swedish newspapers have speculated that the assassination was the act of a deranged man, a renegade policeman or a group of Kurdish immigrants.

Open feuding between police and prosecutors culminated on Feb. 5 with the removal of Stockholm Police Commissioner Hans Holmer, who had led the investigation.

"It is bad enough, the murder still remaining unsolved. All of us are tormented by this," said Foreign Minister Sten Sture Andersson. "And the uneasiness is aggravated by the previous setbacks and conflicts in the police investigation, by all manner of conjecture, gossip and calumny."

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