Proposed Construction Project on Laugavegur

The corner of Laugavegur and Vitastígur

A proposed construction project would transform on the corner of Laugavegur and Vatnsstígur in the city centre. Some old buildings will be replaced by up to 4,000 m2 in new buildings and others will be renovated. Up to 56 hotel apartments are planned. If approved, construction could start as early as next spring.

Laugavegur, the city’s main shopping street and the heart of the city centre, has been the location of plenty of construction for the past few years. The next big construction project and the last in a series of planned renovations is the corner of Laugavegur and Vatnsstígur.

The city council has agreed to advertise a land-use plan proposal for the area, which includes apartments, accommodation and other services. About 4000 sqm will be built above-ground and 600 sqm will be renovated in existing buildings. The project is designed by Zeppelin Architects.

The buildings on Laugavegur 35 and 37 will be renovated and extended, a storey will be added to each of them.

The bulk of the new buildings will be on the Vatnsstígur side of the plot. Vatsstígur 4 will be torn down but the building was destroyed in a fire about ten years ago. The replacement building will feature 10-12 apartments, on three storeys as well as an attic with a mansard style roof and a car park in the basement. Laugavegur 33a will also be tor down.

Orri Árnason, an architect with Zeppelin Architects told RúV: “ I think this will be a big change for the better. I think we can all agree on that. It will look much cleaner and hopefully, there’ll be more life here. We’ll get two new squares, which will probably have something fun going on.”

The land-use plan is yet to be approved but Orri hopes that construction can begin in the spring.

State Opposes Compensation Claim in Guðmundur and Geirfinnur Case

The state has requested an acquittal for the compensation claim of Guðjón Skarphéðinsson, RÚV reports. Guðjón was acquitted in the infamous Guðmundur and Geirfinnur case, last year. Guðojón requested ISK 1.3b (€9.4m, $10.4m) as compensation related to the case, which is considered one of the gravest miscarriages of justice in Iceland’s history.

The state believes that the laws which were in place when the case took place are in effect for Guðjón’s case, Vísir reports.. Previously, authorities had indicated a willingness to settle for damages. Guðjón was the first of the acquitted five to claim compensation. The compensation started in June this year, following the acquittal in September 2018. After the settlement discussion failed, Guðjón took the state to court for compensation.

The state lawyer also believes that Guðjón himself played a part in his wrongful ruling, RÚV reports.

“It’s a surprise that the state took this stance in this matter, as it has already admitted grave misconduct by imprisoning these people for years. It’s a surprise that the state takes no responsibility and intends to tread on their rights,” Guðjón’s lawyer Ragnar Aðalsteinsson said. “This means that the state intends to fight tooth and claw in the law court against all compensation claims,” Ragnar claimed.

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.
Background

Guðmundur and Geirfinnur case

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.

Heavy Rain Expected in West Iceland

The Iceland Coast Guard Hleicopter was dispatched to come to the aid of three tourists who were stuck as flooding had ruptured the road back to Reykjavík.

Heavy rain can be expected on Iceland’s west coast today, according to the Icelandic Met office. An orange warning is in place for Faxaflói and Breiðafjörður in West Iceland. High water levels are anticipated in rivers and streams, as well as increased runoff, increasing the risk of flash floods and landslides that can cause travel disruption and damages, especially on Snæfellsnes peninsula. Southern Snæfellsned, Mýrar, Borgarfjörður and Hvalfjörður are mentioned specifically, as are the Westfjords. People are encouraged to clear autumn leaves away from grates to prevent water damage.

The Iceland Meteorological office states that today will be another wet day in the southwest of Iceland, but less precipitation in other parts of the country.

Heavy rains on the west coast have already caused some problems, with some smaller roads closed due to landslides and floods. The Icelandic Coast Guard helicopter was dispatched yesterday to the aid of tourists who had gotten stuck by Langavatn where the road was ruptured due to flooding. The ICE-SAR teams couldn’t reach the people by land so the helicopter picked up three people and brought them to Reykjavík.  According to a farmer who lives nearby, the rain is causing small streams to behave like rivers.

Tourists travelling in the area are encouraged to drive carefully and slow down when approaching possibly flooded parts of the road.Road in West Iceland ruptured due to heavy rain.

Iceland Coast GuardRoad in West Iceland ruptured due to heavy rain.