Police Concludes Investigation Into Domestic Terror Plot

Press conference

The police authorities have concluded their investigation into two men suspected of plotting a domestic terror plot, Vísir reports. The district attorney’s office will decide whether or not to bring charges against the two suspects over the coming days.

Remained in custody for ten weeks

Four Icelandic men were arrested on September 21 suspected of “terrorist plots” against state institutions and civilians. Two of the suspects were immediately released; the other two have remained in custody for the past ten weeks and will remain in custody until next week, at least.

Speaking to Vísir earlier today, District Attorney Ólafur Þór Hauksson stated that the police authorities had investigated whether the two men were, on the one hand, guilty of violating the General Penal Code on terrorism and, on the other hand, guilty of perpetrating firearms offences. It is not clear at this time whether the two men will be indicted and, if so, when. According to Ólafur, a decision will be made before long.

Last week, a judge extended custody over the two suspects for two weeks; they had already been held in custody for nine weeks. One of the suspects’ lawyers appealed the decision last week, but the Court of Appeals confirmed the decision, Ólafur stated. No decision has been made on whether or not a petition for extended custody will be filed.

As noted in Vísir’s article, the two men are not the only individuals connected to the case that will possibly be charged with weapons offences.

As noted in a police press conference in September, the suspects had hoarded numerous weapons – including dozens of semi-automatic guns and 3D-printed components – alongside a considerable amount of ammunition. The men, both of whom are in their twenties, had reportedly discussed targeting various political figures. They had also discussed carrying out an attack during the police’s annual celebration.

Can I use Euros in Iceland?

currency iceland

The short answer: no, you cannot use Euros in Iceland.

Iceland, to the surprise of some, is not in the European Union, nor does it use the Euro. In fact, Iceland is the second-smallest nation (after the Seychelles) to maintain its own currency and monetary policy, which is called the Icelandic króna, or ISK. It is, however, a part of the Schengen zone, which allows freedom of movement for citizens of partner nations.

Some of Iceland’s Nordic peers, do, however, have different arrangements. For instance, Denmark is part of the EU, but also retains its own currency, the Danish krone, which is pegged in value to the Euro. All of the Scandinavian nations have their own currencies, which are all variations on the local word for “crown,” just like there is a US, Canadian, and Australian dollar. These Scandinavian currencies are descended from the Scandinavian Monetary Union, a monetary union between Denmark, Norway, and Sweden in the 19th century. It stemmed out of a growing desire among some to unite these similar nations in a “pan-Scandinavian” movement. Little else came of this, but the monetary union was generally considered successful and helped to tie the region’s economies together under a standardized system.

But these days, the Icelandic króna is the only official currency, so plan accordingly.

If you are planning a trip to Iceland, know that digital transactions are largely the rule in most establishments. You certainly can pay in cash, but most places of business prefer electronic payment for convenience. Still, a well-prepared traveller should exchange some cash to have on hand, just in case. It is possible to change cash at the airport or at a bank in town. You can also use an ATM (in Icelandic: Hraðbanki) to withdraw local currency, but these generally come with fees.

However, some large stores, attractions, and restaurants that deal largely with tourists may accept Euros, USD, or other major currencies. Also, because of the high volume of connecting flights through Keflavík International Airport, all merchants at the airport accept Euro, USD, and some other major currencies. It is worth noting that this is not an official policy: it is a service that some businesses provide their customers with for convenience. That means that while it may be an option, do not make your plans around being able to pay in Euro, USD, or other currencies.

Zelenskyy Gifted Icelandic Lopapeysa from Foreign Minister

Icelandic sweater for Zelenskyy

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was gifted an Icelandic sweater (i.e. lopapeysa) by Iceland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs on Sunday. “I’m proud and honoured,” the designer of the sweater told Iceland Review this morning.

“A strange request”

Writing on Facebook yesterday, Icelandic singer Salka Sól described an unusual phone call that she received from the Assistant to the Minister for Foreign Affairs recently:

“I was asked to knit, for the President of Ukraine, an Icelandic lopapeysa, which the President would receive as a gift from the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I couldn’t say no to such a request. I called my collaborator Sjöfn Kristjánsdóttir, and together we knitted two lopapeysur over the space of five days with good help from Eygló (Gísladóttir). Zelenskyy received the sweaters on Sunday … we hope that he’ll be spotted wearing them soon; most of all, however, we hope that the war will end.”

In an interview with Iceland Review this morning, designer Sjöfn Kristjánsdóttir echoed Salka’s sentiments: it was the most unusual request that she had received.

“We were very surprised, but at the same time, incredibly proud and honoured to be handed this assignment. Zelenskyy is an incredible person, whom we have watched – like the rest of the world – from the sidelines. To be able to contribute, on behalf of the Icelandic nation, is amazing; it’s something that I’ll never forget.”

As noted by Sjöfn, the Icelandic lopapeysa is a legally protected product, having received a Designation of Origin status from the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority in 2020; sweaters with the traditional decorative pattern can only be labelled as “Icelandic sweaters” if they are knitted by hand in Iceland using Icelandic wool. “This sweater meets all the criteria,” Sjöfn observed, adding that producing two sweaters in the space of just five days was a lot of work.

“Of course, when two hyperactive women come together – they decide to make two sweaters. We knitted incessantly. I had a sick child at home; I made good use of sleepless nights.”

Witnessing the destruction firsthand

As noted in an article on Mbl.is, Foreign Minister Þórdís Kolbrún, alongside other foreign ministers from the Nordic and Baltic countries, met with Volodymyr Zelenskyy and other Ukrainian ministers on Sunday.

The ministers discussed the situation in Ukraine, with representatives from the latter country calling for continued support. The ministers from the Nordic and Baltic countries also acquainted themselves firsthand with the damages wrought by the Russian military and laid a wreath of flowers in honour of the victims of The Holodomor (the Great Famine), which cost millions of Ukrainians their lives between 1932-1933.

“It’s important to witness the conditions of the Ukrainian capital with one’s own eyes,” Þórdís Kolbrún was quoted as saying in a press release on the government’s website, “even if our visit was brief. One is, first and foremost, faced with the terrible consequences of Russia’s incessant attacks on the country’s infrastructure. Keeping the electricity on, during the intense and tangible winter cold, is a constant battle: everything is covered in snow and the frost is biting.”

Ukraine
Salka Sól, Þórdís Kolbrún, and Sjöfn Kristjánsdóttir

Over 60 Prison Sentences Expired Due to Lack of Cell Space

Roughly sixty prison sentences have expired over the past three years owing to shortage of prison cells, RÚV reports. At a session before Parliament yesterday, members of the opposition expressed concern over the state of the country’s prison system.

Deterrance rendered ineffective

Yesterday, Helga Vala Helgadóttir, MP for the Social Democratic Alliance, opened the discussion on prison affairs before Parliament. Roughly 300 people, of which 279 men, are on prison wait lists. According to Helga Vala, the state of affairs is unacceptable, both for victims and perpetrators:

“The aim of legislation on the enforcement of sentences is that sentences be served safely and efficiently in order to deter, whether by particular or general means, criminal offences; however, such a thing can hardly be effective when prisoners cannot begin serving their sentences and when victims must watch perpetrators walk the streets as if they had done nothing wrong. Furthermore, convicted individuals cannot begin to rebuild their lives or must simply trust that their prison sentences expire so that they don’t need to serve time. These are terrible messages to send to society,” Helga Vala stated.

Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, Chair of the Centre Party, echoed Helga’s sentiments:

“Although we sometimes use the phrase human-rights violation rather freely, I would categorise it in these terms: that someone has been sentenced – with all the subsequent consequences on the individual – but must wait in uncertainty as to when that sentence begins,” Sigmundur remarked.

Sixty-four prison sentences expired since beginning of 2020

As noted by RÚV, since the start of 2020, 64 prison sentences have expired owing to a shortage of cell space. The COVID pandemic played a significant role but also a lack of government funding. The prison system will receive an increase of ISK 250 million ($1.8 million / €1.7 million) according to a bill to amend next year’s budget as proposed by the Minister of Finance.

Just Minister Jón Gunnar states that this will completely alter the state of affairs:

“One must also consider what the prison authorities are dealing with, namely longer sentences, a greater number of sentences, and a significant increase in the number of individuals being kept in police custody, which wasn’t entirely expected, and which has served to complicate matters. A working group was appointed to review operations and to offer proposals on how to shorten waiting lists. They’re working on it, and once that work is finished, we’ll have a foundation from which to increase the budget and the number of prison guards, and also to operate our prisons more efficiently. This will, of course, be of great help,” Jón stated.