Swede of the Year Gunnar Strömmer is awarded the prize by jury member Antonia Ax:son Johnson and magazine Editor-in-Chief Martin Ahlquist. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

Gunnar Strömmer named Swede of the Year 2013

5:42 min

The Swede of the Year for 2013 was recently announced by current affairs magazine Fokus. Previously won by names such as writer and comedian Jonas Gardell and popstar Robyn, this year's choice has proven slightly more controversial. It has gone to the man behind a legal bureau that, at no cost to the plaintiff, fights for the rights of individuals against the state

His name is Gunnar Strömmer, and over a decade ago he travelled to Washington DC where he visited a public interest law firm helping citizens for free, and he decided to try to bring the concept back to Sweden.

Called the Centre for Justice (Centrum för Rättvisa, in Swedish) it fights legal cases on behalf of people that feel they have been treated badly by the state or organisations, free of charge. Those cases can include students passed over for university courses because the were of the wrong gender, or in one of its most recent cases, the family of a man who was filmed by a tv documentary team on his deathbed, they say without him knowing.

But the choice of Strömmer as "Swede of the Year" has proven controversial, with ideological opponents from the left of the political spectrum seeing his "David versus Goliath" legal work against the state as a way for him to push his own political views. He used to be head of the conservative Moderate party's youth wing. He recently stepped down as head of the organisation, but remains on the board.

He told Radio Sweden: "Decent people can disagree about whether or not we are taking on the right cases or the wrong cases, because people look upon society in different ways, but as an organisation I think many people would agree that it has been successful".

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