Voter Turnout Higher Among Women

Participation in municipal elections this spring was better among women than men, RÚV reports. This was among the findings just released by Statistics Iceland, which also showed that voter turnout increased for the first time since 2002.

There were 247,943 people on the election register at the time of municipal elections this year and 167,622 votes cast. This means that election turnout was 67.6%, which is 1.1% higher than it was in 2014. Turnout among women was 68.8% and 66.5% among men.

Turnout was lowest among voters aged 20 – 24 years old; less than half of registered voters in this age group voted, or 48.1%. Turnout among the youngest voters—individuals aged 18 and 19—was better, 53.7%. The best turnout—83%—was among voters aged 65 – 74.

Participation of voters with foreign citizenship dropped since 2014. Participation among those with Nordic citizenships was 51.4% this year, compared to 56.7% in 2014. Participation among those with other citizenships was 15.3%, down from 17% in 2014.

Man Sentenced to Prison Time for Threatening Vets

A man has been sentenced to 60 days in prison for threatening the staff of a veterinary clinic via Facebook, RÚV reports. The threats were made via Facebook in 2016, after the man took his dog to the clinic.

“there’s every indication that […]they were negligent in their work when my gloria went in for her general exam three weeks ago,” read the post. “and if i find out that’s the case tomorrow morning you all won’t see me on [fb] in the coming days […] I AM SO INSANE RIGHT NOW THAT I SEE JAIL TIME AHEAD,” he wrote, and went on to threaten to kill the staff outright.

The man was also found guilty of importing imitation firearms. He had been charged with attempting to import real illegal firearms, but these were found to have been fake.

Acquittal in Guðmundur and Geirfinnur Case

The family members of the fivesome witnessed the acquittal today in an emotionally charged courtroom. Sævar Cieselski’s daughter couldn’t help but shed a tear at the retrial

Acquittal in Guðmundur and Geirfinnur Case

The Supreme Court of Iceland acquitted Sævar Cieselski, Tryggvi Rúnar Leifsson, Kristján Viðar Júlíusson, Guðjón Skarphéðinsson, and Albert Klahn Skaftason, Vísir reports. The individuals were charged for the murders of Guðmundur Einarsson and Geirfinnur Einarsson in 1974, for which the fivesome received sentences in 1980.

Erla Bolladóttir was the only one of the six charged for the murders not to get a retrial. Here she sits at the front row of today’s hearing, with the family of Tryggvi Rúnar Leifsson conversing with a judge in the background.

The lawyers of the defendants have made stark remarks about the hardship the defendants had to endure in the case. A full acquittal is requested for all of the individuals that were granted a retrial in the case, other than Guðjón Skarphéðinsson whose defendant requested that his client be declared innocent. Davíð Þór Björgvinsson, the district attorney in the case, has also requested a full acquittal of the individuals found guilty in the case.

Background

The case revolves around the disappearance of two men, Guðmundur and Geirfinnur, in 1974. Six people were ultimately convicted of the murders of these two men based on confessions extracted by members of the police force. These confessions are believed to be faulty due to extreme length and intensity of the interrogations. Furthermore, there was a complete lack of bodies, a known crime scene, witnesses or forensic evidence. Murders are few and far between in Iceland and even more so in the 70s. There was tremendous pressure on police authorities to identify and sentence the culprits. It is believed that this pressure led to the extreme methods performed in order to extract confessions.

The six individuals eventually charged with the murders were Sævar Ciesielski, Kristján Viðar Júlíusson, Tryggvi Rúnar Leifsson, Albert Klahn Skaftason, Guðjón Skarphéðinsson, and Erla Bolladóttir. Among the methods used by police to gain confessions were lengthy stays in isolation, water torture, sleep deprivation, drugs, and a lack of contact with lawyers. Sævar Cieselski had to endure the longest stay in custody, a total of 1533 days, 615 of those in solitary confinement. He received the heaviest sentence, a maximum prison stay of 17 years. Tryggvi Rúnar Leifsson was kept in solitary confinement for 655 days in total. Tryggvi’s stay is believed to be one of the longest stays in solitary confinement outside of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.

The six individuals charged for the murders. From top left to bottom right: Sævar Cieselski, Erla Bolladóttir, Albert Klahn Skaftason, Tryggvi Rúnar Leifsson, Kristján Viðar Júlíusson, Guðjón Skarphéðinsson.

Cases reopened

The committee of reopening cases agreed to have a retrial for the cases of five individuals sentenced for their role in the Guðmundur and Geirfinnur case last February. The request to reopen the case on behalf of Erla Bolladóttir was rejected. A special committee was founded to handle the reopening of the case, and the committee believes that the foundation for the confessions is inadequate. The committee questions both the reliability of the confessions acquired as well as the forensic evidence surrounding the case. The time that it took to receive the confessions, along with the methods used to extract them are among the reasons listed for why the confessions are believed to be dubious at best. The bodies of Guðmundur and Geirfinnur were never found.

“I’ve worked on miscarriages of justice in many different countries. I’ve testified in several countries – hundreds of cases I’ve done, big cases. I’d never come across any case where there had been such intense interrogation, so many interrogations, and such lengthy solitary confinement. I was absolutely shocked when I saw that”, Gísli H. Guðjónsson, professor of Forensic Psychology at the Institute of Psychiatry of King’s College London.

Tryggvi Rúnar Leifsson received an acquittal today for his part in the case. His grandson and namesake, Tryggvi Rúnar Leifsson, along with Tryggvi’s daughter, take in the sentence.

In the spotlight

The case is well known outside Iceland. ‘Out of Thin Air’, a documentary covering the events of the Guðmundur and Geirfinnur case was released by Netflix in 2017. Directed by Dylan Howitt, the film covers the events of the murders and was inspired by the BBC programme ‘The Reykjavík Confessions’, which was released in 2014.

Ed Sheeran Tickets Sell Out in Two Hours

All 30,000 tickets on offer for the Ed Sheeran concert at Laugardalsvöllur in August 2019 sold out in two and a half hours, RÚV reports. The tickets went on sale on Thursday morning at 9:00 AM and sold out in two and a half hours.

There were 24,000 people waiting to buy tickets when the sale began; 15,000 people were waiting to purchase tickets when the concert sold out.

Ed’s performance will take place on August 10, 2019. It won’t the first time he’s visited Iceland—he famously burned his foot in a hot spring when visiting the country for his 25th birthday in 2017—but it is the first time he will be playing a concert here.

At Least Five Injured After Vehicle Rear-Ends Stationary Police Car

At least five people were taken to the ER after a traffic accident that involved a vehicle driving straight into the back of a stationary police car, RÚV reports. According to information released by the capital-area fire department and posted by police on Facebook, the accident was quite serious.

According to a post on the Facebook page of capital area police, the accident, which was took place around 3:00 PM on Wednesday afternoon, occurred as police were monitoring traffic speed on Suðurlandsvegur, just west of the Bláfjöll Mountains outside of Reykjavík. They had pulled a car over for speeding and were talking to the driver when another vehicle drove into the back of their stationary car at considerable speed. The vehicle that hit the police car was said to be driving well outside of the lane and was not on the roadway itself when the collision occurred.

Two of the five individuals who were transported to the ER—that is, one of the police officers and the driver who had just been stopped for speeding—suffered serious injuries in the collision. The other people’s injuries were not thought to be serious.

No more information about the collision or the injured parties was known at time of writing.