The prosecution is demanding that Marek Moszczynski, who is charged with three counts of manslaughter and ten counts of attempted manslaughter after a fire on Bræðraborgarstígur street in Reykjavík last summer, be sentenced to life in prison. Alternatively, the prosecution is calling for a 20-year prison sentence or placement in a secured psychiatric ward if the court rules him not criminally responsible, RÚV reports.
The main hearing in Moszczynski’s case concludes in the Reykjavík District Court today. The last witness was questioned before the court this morning. The court has called on some 30 witnesses, including others who lived in the house with Moszczynski, neighbours, police officers, and psychiatrists. Two psychiatric evaluations have ruled Moszczynski not criminally responsible by reason of mental disorder.
Clear Case of Arson, Prosecutor Says
District Prosecutor Kolbrún Benediktsdóttir stated in her concluding speech this morning that said there was no doubt the fire was a case of arson as there are two clear points of origin. “Negligence is ruled out because there are two points of origin a few metres apart. A fire at one of the points can not cause a fire at the other.”
While Moszczynski’s lawyer Stefán Karl Kristjánsson suggested an Icelandic couple living on the ground floor of the house was to blame for the fire, Kolbrún stated the testimony and timeline of events indicated that Moszczynski was responsible. She added that the house’s poor fire safety conditions did not excuse Moszczynski’s actions. “Marek knows this and knows what condition the house is in. It doesn’t excuse him that the owners of the house did not take ensure fire safety measures and escape routes. The accused knew full well that there were no escape routes there,” Kolbrún stated.
Seventeen File for Compensation
The Bræðraborgarstígur house was on a list of illegal residential housing published by the fire brigade in 2017. The building was reported on as far back as 2015 in Stundin newspaper regarding sub-standard housing for foreign workers and was covered two years later by the TV programme Kveikur, which conducted an investigation of illegal residence in the house. A government report commissioned in the wake of the fire found that thousands are living in non-residential buildings in Iceland, where fire safety measures are often inadequate and put their lives at risk.
Seventeen people have filed for compensation in the case, including the families of the victims, who have begun legal proceedings against both the accused and the owner of the house. The three individuals who died in the fire were all Polish citizens. The fire set off a public discussion on the conditions facing many foreign workers in Iceland.