Compensation Awarded in Guðmundur and Geirfinnur Case

Guðmundur and Geirfinur

The state treasury dispensed ISK 774 million ($6,273,847 / €5,687,243) on Wednesday in compensation to parties acquitted before the supreme court in 2018 in a retrial of the Guðmundur and Geirfinnur case, Fréttablaðið reports. The treasury also compensated the spouses and children of two deceased defendants.

A Total of ISK 815 million paid

According to PM Katrín Jakobsdóttir, the Office of the Prime Minister concluded, upon reviewing the case, that it would not suggest amendments to the damages recommended by the conciliation committee, except regarding compensation awarded to relatives of Sævar Marinó Ciesielski: it was raised by ISK 15 million ($121,547 / €110,214)

The state treasury also paid legal costs amounting to 5% of the total compensation. The total cost paid amounted to ISK 815 million ($6,602,437 / €5,987,816).

Albert Klahn Skaftason received ISK 15 million ($121,547 / €110,214), Guðjón Skarphéðinsson received ISK 145 million ($1,175,048 / €1,065,263), Kristján Viðar Júlíusson received ISK 204 million ($1,653,170 / €1,499,029), relatives of Tryggvi Rúnar Leifsson received ISK 171 million ($1,385,746 / €1,256,539) and relatives of Sævar Marinó Ciesielski received ISK 239 million ($1,936,959 / €1,756,114).

In brief

The Guðmundur and Geirfinnur case is one of the most notorious criminal cases in Icelandic history.

The case revolved 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, police never recovered the bodies of the missing men, were not able to confirm the location of the crime scene, and had no actual witnesses or forensic evidence.

In September 2018 (in a retrial of the case), Guðjón Skarphéðinsson, Sævar Ciesielski, Tryggvi Rúnar Leifsson, Kristján Viðar Júlíusson, and Albert Klahn Skaftason were acquitted of the murders of Guðmundur Einarsson and Geirfinnur Einarsson in 1974, for which they were sentenced in 1980. Sævar Ciesielski died in 2011. Tryggvi Rúnar Leifsson died in 2009.

Icelandair Secures Additional Compensation from Boeing

In an interim report published by Icelandair Group yesterday, Icelandair announced that it had secured a second partial compensation agreement with Boeing (the first agreement was reached in September), owing to the “unprecedented impact” of Icelandair’s five Boeing MAX aircraft having been grounded since last March. The conditions of the agreement are confidential. According to RÚV, Icelandair will continue to negotiate with Boeing for further compensation.

As Iceland Review reported last week, Icelandair does not expect its Boeing 737 Max planes to return to service until the end of February 2020. The airline has adjusted its flight schedule through February 2020. The decision will have a “minimum impact” on previously scheduled flights.

In the above-mentioned report, Bogi Nils Bogason, CEO of Icelandair Group, states that the company’s third-quarter results show improvements in Icelandair Group’s underlying operations despite the suspension of the MAX aircraft: “Operational improvements with EBIT amounting to USD 81.1 million in the quarter, up by USD 2.8 million.” The report also notes that the number of passengers who travelled to Iceland in the quarter increased by 27%.

Icelandair Group’s fourth-quarter results are also expected to improve compared to last year.

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.

Compensation Should Be Higher for Guðmundur and Geirfinnur Plaintiffs

Ragnar Aðalsteinsson, defense lawyer for Guðjón Skarphéðinsson, one of the defendants in the Guðmundur and Geirfinnur retrial, says that the compensation being offered to his client is too low in comparison with that which has been offered in similar cases.

Guðjón was one of five defendants in a retrial of one of the most notorious criminal cases in Icelandic history. In September, Guðjón and Sævar Cieselski, Tryggvi Rúnar Leifsson, Kristján Viðar Júlíusson, and Albert Klahn Skaftason were acquitted of the murders of Guðmundur Einarsson and Geirfinnur Einarsson in 1974, for which they were sentenced in 1980.

The case revolved 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, police hever recovered the bodies of the missing men, were not able to confirm the location of the crime scene, and had no actual witnesses or forensic evidence. Murders are few and far between in Iceland and this was particularly true 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. Sævar Ciesielski, who had fought for years to have the case reopened and retried, died in 2011. (Read more about the case here and here.)

Following the acquittal, the Prime Minister issued a formal apology to the five wrongfully convicted defendants and appointed a working group to lead negotiations regarding compensation for the defendants and their families. Seven months have passed since then, but no formal compensation offer has yet been made.

Defense lawyer Ragnar Aðalsteinsson says that the government has informally proposed a ceiling of ISK 600 million [$62.3 million; €55.5] in compensation. In 1983, four suspects who were imprisoned for 105 days in connection with the murders were paid ISK 56 million [$459,921; €409,345] for every day they were wrongfully held in custody in compensation. This is equivalent to ISK 535 million [$4.39 million; €3.91 million] today. The current offer, says Ragnar, is roughly a tenth of that offer “…based on the same charges, in the same prison, at the same time.” Moreover, he says, the current compensation offer does not account for his client’s loss of employment and income at the time.

The defendants were held for up to two years in solitary confinement in addition to the prison terms they were sentenced to. Ragnar says that they should be compensated for at least ISK 390 million [$3.2 million; €2.85] for the two years they spent in solitary confinement.

Ragnar says that the significance of awarding substantial damages goes beyond simply compensating the defendants for their monetary losses at the time of their imprisonment. “High compensation has a range of effects. It is part of the pardon, but also acts as a restraint on police and judicial authorities in the future, to be more careful than they have been in this case, in the hope that something like this won’t repeat itself in the coming years and decades.”

State Sentenced to Pay Compensation for 13-Hour Detainment

The district court of Reykjavík has sentenced the Icelandic government to pay ISK 100,000 [$902.53; €777.41] in damages to a man who was held in a prison cell for thirteen hours after being arrested. RÚVreports that the judge determined that police had not shown sufficient cause to hold the plaintiff for so long.

The man was arrested following an incident at his home in December of 2012. The man’s wife had called 112 [the emergency line] and screams and noise were heard in the background before the call was cut off. Two police officers were sent to the home under the assumption that there was a domestic violence situation in progress. The man tried to attack the officers, who held him down and then took him to the station, where he was held in a jail cell. It appears, however, that no attempt was made to interrogate the man, and nothing in the police report explains why he was held for so long.

The man was also petitioning for compensation for the use of what he claimed was unnecessary force in his arrest. This claim was rejected by the judge, as police were able to prove that he had been extremely agitated at the time of arrest, and had exhibited threatening behavior when he attempted to attack the officers.