Court Upholds Sentence but Criticises Interrogation Procedure

Iceland’s Court of Appeals admonished police for their initial interrogation of Thomas Møller Olsen, who was found guilty of the murder of Birna Brjánsdóttir and of drug smuggling on January 14, 2017, RÚV reports. Although the court has confirmed Thomas’ original sentence of 19 years in prison and says that there is no realistic possibility that he is innocent of these crimes, it did criticise police for their initial interrogation methods, which they said contravened established procedure regarding the rights of individuals who have been placed under arrest.

Thomas Møller Olsen has protested his innocence throughout the initial court case and, in September, appealed for a reduced sentence, saying that it was his shipmate who was to blame for Birna’s murder. He also claimed that he had been harassed when he was arrested and prevented from sleeping – woken every two hours, screamed at, and called insulting names by police.

The Court of Appeals confirmed that Thomas had been detained for 44 hours before being charged, during which time he was interrogated three times. After this time period, he was taken before a judge as required by law and made to submit to various biological screening and DNA tests by the police forensics unit. Police say that there is often little time in between such tests, which accounts for why Thomas was not allowed more time to rest, as does the fact that he was under strong suspicion in the disappearance of a young girl who had yet to be found by authorities. Given that the first 24 hours of a disappearance of this nature are considered to be of vital importance to an investigation, police say that this schedule was unavoidable.

The Court of Appeals underscored the importance of law enforcement always treating suspects with courtesy and respect and of insuring that their own demeanors are always calm when interacting with people under arrest. Even so, however, this did not have any effect on Thomas’ sentence, which the court upheld on Friday, November 23, namely 19 years in prison and a combined total of ISK seven million ($56,579/€49,882) paid in compensation to Birna’s parents. The prosecution originally requested a sentence of 18 years at the District Court, but Thomas received a heavier sentence, presumably because he tried to shift the blame for his crime to another person.

All Icelanders Automatically Registered as Organ Donors Next Year

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Alma Möller, Iceland’s Director of Health, is urging for there to be a broad public conversation about upcoming changes to Iceland’s existing organ donation law, RÚV reports. As of the start of the new year, all Icelanders will automatically be designated as organ donors unless they specifically opt out.

Organ donations began being made in Iceland in 1993 and since then, about 100 people have donated organs, benefiting 350 people. Currently, you must specially register to become an organ donor in Iceland, but this will change in 2019. Alma says that it’s very important that more people become open to the idea of donating their organs after their death, but also that those who wish to opt out of this have all the information they need to be able to do so.

Meetings will be held with healthcare professionals will be held throughout Iceland in the coming weeks so that they will be better able to address patient questions and concerns about the new law. The meetings will also be open to the general public.

The need for organs in Iceland is increasing and the current rate of donation is likely not enough to sustain patients in need. There are an average of 25 – 30 people in need of organ donation in Iceland each year.

Translations of Icelandic Literature Have Tripled in Ten Years

There are more than three times as many Icelandic books being translated into other languages as there were ten years ago. This statistic was recently announced in a press release issued by the Icelandic Literature Center, the mission of which is to “raise awareness of Icelandic literature, both in Iceland and abroad, and to promote its distribution.” This year, the Center has awarded 106 grants to support translations of Icelandic works into 31 languages. This marks a significant increase from the number of grants that it distributed in 2008, or 31 grants for translations in 14 languages.

Translation grants are often vital for the dissemination of Icelandic abroad, and have already paved the way for notable works such as Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir’s Ör (English title, Hotel Silence), which won this year’s Nordic Council Literature Prize, to gain a global audience.

The range of languages that Icelandic literature is being translated into this year is impressive in its breadth: Albanian, Amharic, Arabic, Armenian, Azerbaijani, Bulgarian, Chinese, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, Faroese, Georgian, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Italian, Latvian, Macedonian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Polish, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, Turkish, and Ukrainian.