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.

Armed Man Wounded by East Iceland Police Last Night

The police in East Iceland shot and wounded an armed man in Egilsstaðir last night, Mbl.is reports. No police officers were injured. The man has been transferred to the University Hospital in Reykjavík for treatment.

“Gunshots heard”

Shortly after 10 pm yesterday, the police in East Iceland was notified of an individual firing shots in Dalsel, a residential area in Egilsstaðir. In an interview with Mbl.is, Þröstur Jónsson, a resident of Dalsel, stated that he had heard “popping noises, as if from a skateboard,” from inside his garage. Stepping outside, Þröstur observed as police officers ordered the man to lay down his weapon. It is not clear at this point what kind of weapon the man was brandishing.

The gunman, approximately 30 years of age, was reportedly standing in the street, in front of a police vehicle, when the officers shot him in the stomach. The man was treated by emergency respondents and transferred to the University Hospital in Reykjavík in an ambulance flight. The man’ condition remains unknown, although multiple sources report that he is alive. No police officers were wounded.

No further information will be provided by the East Iceland police at this time.

Cannot comment at this stage of the investigation

In an interview with RÚV, Kolbrún Benediktsdóttir, Deputy District Attorney, revealed that the DA’s office had dispatched personnel to investigate the shooting. “The investigation is in its initial stages, so we can’t comment.”

When asked about the next steps of the investigation, Kolbrún remarked that the DA’s office would be conducting interviews over the coming days.

(This article was updated on 3 pm.)

Expanded Víkurgarður Protection Draws Criticism

The Cultural Heritage Agency’s decision to expand the boundaries of the protected area around Víkurgarður square is now being challenged by the Reykjavík District Attorney, who says that the proposed placement of a new hotel entrance will not disturb any historical artefacts, RÚV reports. Although hotel construction on the site had resumed with the agency’s approval, the organisation made the snap decision in January to expand the previously designated area of protection around the square, citing the location of one of the hotel’s entrances as its motivation for doing so.

The Víkurgarður site – which stands atop an ancient cemetery – has been the cause of heated debate between those who want to see it protected from development and those who say that the hotel that is to be constructed there will not disturb any artefacts of historical import. Current real estate estimates value the plot at close to ISK 775 million ($6.5m/€5.7m), but the site also has a long and storied history: Víkurgarður was the site of one of Iceland’s first Christian cemeteries, which was established in the 11th century, shortly after Iceland adopted Christianity. The cemetery was officially demolished in 1838, but burials continued there until 1883.

Months of debate

Construction on the site was originally halted in November, when a coffin was found during the initial excavation. Construction then resumed almost exactly a month later, when the Cultural Heritage Agency suggested that protection of the area should only cover the part that is classified as an official city square in city plans. This would then leave the area surrounding the concrete square unprotected and would allow hotel construction to continue.

In January, however, the Cultural Heritage Agency made the decision to widen the previous protection boundaries, because one of the new hotel’s entrance is slated to extend out toward the square. This decision came as a surprise to the developers. “We expect this is based on some misunderstanding,” remarked Jóhannes Stefánsson, the managing director of the Lindarvatn Real Estate Developers. “…[T]he area that’s been granted instant protection is just gravel; there are no artefacts there that necessitate [protection].”

Agency “doesn’t have the authority”

Ebba Schram, the City of Reykjavík’s District Attorney echoed Lindarvatn’s assertion during a City Council meeting on Thursday, saying that not only is the sudden protection status not in keeping with established laws on the protection of cultural heritage, but moreover, the proposed entrance will not disturb any artefacts or remains.

During her sharply worded address, Ebba maintained that the agency had not provided any evidence that artefacts would be destroyed or damaged if one of the hotel entrances does eventually face Víkurgarður. Hotel guest foot traffic does not represent any change to how Víkurgarður is currently used, she said, noting that the paved square has been a park since 1883 and open to the public since the end of World War II. The idea that hotel guests will prevent the park from maintaining its protected status is then, she said, baseless, as hotel guest foot traffic will not change anything about the appearance or future use of the square.

The DA continued that the Cultural Heritage Agency had had ample time to come forward with complaints about the design plans, even well before the coffin was discovered on the site in 2018. She also said that the Cultural Heritage Agency did not have the authority to issue instant protection out of hand.

As of this writing, it remains uncertain whether the hotel will be built according to its original specifications.