A landmark domestic terrorism trial against two men accused of plotting attacks against state institutions and civilians began at the Reykjavik District Court yesterday. Both defendants have denied the charges. A senior police officer testified that the suspects’ communications and behaviour justified police intervention.
Court proceedings begin
The main proceedings in the so-called domestic terrorism case began yesterday at the Reykjavik District Court. The District Court will be composed of three judges due to the scope and content of the case. The defence attorney for one of the defendants told Vísir yesterday that he believed there was good reason to be optimistic about the outcome of the case.
The case was opened in September of 2021 when four Icelandic men were arrested suspected of “terrorist plots” against state institutions and civilians. Two of the suspects were immediately released; the other two, Sindri Snær Birgisson and Ísidór Nathansson, were remanded in custody.
According to the police, the suspects had hoarded numerous weapons – including dozens of semi-automatic guns and 3D-printed components – alongside a considerable amount of ammunition. In private messages, the two men had reportedly discussed carrying out an attack. Chief Police Inspector Karl Steinar Valsson told reporters at the time that this was the “first investigation of its kind to be launched in Iceland.”
On October 9, 2022, charges were filed against the two men. Sindri Snær was charged with attempted terrorism and weapons offences, and Ísidór for complicity in attempted terrorism, weapons offences, and minor drug offences.
A brief chronology of the case
On February 6, 2023, the Reykjavik District Court dismissed the case on the basis that it would be difficult for Sindri and Ísidór to mount a defence as the case failed to adequately specify their alleged criminal conduct in relation to said terrorist attacks. The indictment was, therefore, flawed to the extent that it did not meet the requirements of criminal procedure law.
The Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal decision four days later, and the prosecution was back to square one. As noted by Vísir, Símon Sigvaldason, one of the three Court of Appeals judges, issued a dissenting opinion, acknowledging certain flaws in the indictment but arguing that they were not so severe as to warrant dismissal. He believed that the district court’s decision should be annulled.
On June 12 last year, a new indictment was filed in the case, which was much more detailed and covered the alleged planning of terrorist acts. It more thoroughly described the accusations against Sindri Snær and Ísidór of plotting to murder named individuals and commit terrorist acts. They also expressed their admiration for notorious figures such as Anders Breivik. The second indictment did not, however, find favour with Daði Kristjánsson, the district judge, who agreed with Sveinn Andri Sveinsson, Sindri Snær’s defence attorney, to dismiss the case.
The District Prosecutor appealed the decision to the Court of Appeals, demanding that the case proceed to substantive trial. The Court of Appeals overturned the dismissal on October 23 last year.
The police were right to intervene
During his testimony in court yesterday, Sindri Snær Birgisson stated that he was in no way planning a terrorist attack when he discussed mass murder, purchasing police uniforms, admiring mass murderers, and similar topics with a friend. “I completely deny this; it’s just crazy.” He and his defence attorney have strongly criticised the prosecution for taking things out of context.
Ísidór likewise denied the charges and stated that he did not intend to assist Sindri in preparing terrorist acts. He claimed to have been coerced during police interrogation and that he had been held in solitary confinement. He described being under significant stress during the nearly three-month custody period. He admitted that he and Sindri shared a “disgusting” sense of humour.
During his testimony, Chief Police Inspector Karl Steinar Valsson outlined the National Police Commissioner’s involvement in the case. When questioned by the defence attorney about statements at a press conference regarding the “prevention of a terrorist act,”, Karl Steinar noted that Sindri and Ísidór had made statements, in private messages, about intending to harm others. He affirmed that it was his assessment at the time, and it remains his view today, that the police were correct to intervene.