Defendants Deny Charges in Landmark Domestic Terrorism Trial

Héraðsdómur Reykjavíkur Reykjavík District Court

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.

Court of Appeals Reverses Dismissal in Domestic Terror Case

Judge's gavel

The Court of Appeals (i.e. Landsréttur) has invalidated the decision of the Reykjavik District Court to dismiss the indictment in the so-called domestic terror case. The defence attorney for one of the two defendants told Vísir on Monday that his client, who was innocent, was not fearful of court proceedings.

64-count indictment presented in June

Last year, four Icelandic men were arrested suspected of terrorist plots against state institutions and civilians. Two of the suspects were immediately released, while the other two were kept in custody for an extended period.

Although the initial case was dismissed in February of this year, a new 64-count indictment was presented in June, 2023. That indictment was also dismissed in early October on the grounds that the case’s limitations – namely that no specific time nor place for the intended terrorist acts had been laid out by the prosecution – hindered the defence in presenting its arguments. The District Prosecutor appealed the decision.

Supreme Court hearing anticipated

The Court of Appeals has now invalidated the decision of the Reykjavik District Court to dismiss the indictment, which means that the case will be reconsidered in the district court where the indictment stands.

In an interview with Vísir on Monday, Sveinn Andri Sveinsson – defence attorney for one of the two defendants in the case – stated that he disagreed with the Court of Appeals’ decision; the district court’s conclusion was well-founded.

“But the Court of Appeals has the final say. If one wants to find something positive in this, it will be better, in the long run, to have a clear and definite acquittal rather than the case ending ambiguously, which was where it seemed to be heading,” Sveinn observed. Sveinn Andri also told Mbl.is that his defendant was not fearful of the possibility of a trial: “My client is not fearful of the court proceedings because he is innocent.”

When asked about the case’s lengthy legal process, Sveinn compared it to an American comedy: “It’s like the script for Groundhog Day 2,” he stated, adding that he suspected that the case would eventually wind up in the Supreme Court. “One way or another.”

District Prosecutor Appeals Dismissal of Domestic Terror Case

Héraðsdómur Reykjavíkur Reykjavík District Court

The District Prosecutor has appealed the Reykjavik District Court’s dismissal of the so-called domestic terrorism case to the National Court, Vísir reports. The defence attorney for one of the defendants has expressed his concerns about the impact of the case on his client.

Prosecution silent as National Court deliberates

The District Prosecutor has appealed the Reykjavik District Court’s dismissal of the so-called domestic terrorism case to the National Court (i.e. Landsréttur). The charge, holding that two men in their twenties were planning on carrying out a domestic terrorism attack in Iceland, has been dismissed twice due to limitations. This was confirmed by prosecutor Karl Ingi Vilbergsson, who represents the prosecution, in an interview with Vísir.

According to Karl Ingi, the National Court will now take time to review the case and decide whether to refer the charge back to the district court for substantive processing. He added that the office would not reveal what the next steps would be, should the National Court decide to uphold the dismissal. “We will just have to see what happens,” he observed.

Limitations complicating the work of the defence

The Reykjavík District Court dismissed the case last Monday, October 2, as it believed the case’s limitations hindered the defence in presenting its arguments. Sveinn Andri Sveinsson, defence attorney of Sindri Snær Birgisson, who faces charges in the case along with Ísidór Nathansson, previously told Vísir that he believed it was likely that the prosecution would appeal the dismissal.

Sveinn Andri expressed his concerns regarding the prosecution’s case. “The lives of these young men have been ruined. This case should never have taken this turn if the police had handled it properly, monitored them, and investigated the matter thoroughly and appropriately. It would never have led to prosecution.”

Vísir notes that prosecutors have charged Sindri with planning terrorist acts, while accusing Ísidór of complicity in Sindri’s crimes, alleging he provided assistance and encouragement.

The district court’s dismissal ruling stated clearly that a specific time and place for the intended terrorist acts had not been determined. Similarly, the court ruled that it was unclear whether these intended crimes were to be executed in the near or distant future, while also highlighting the uncertainty regarding the location. Additionally, the number of intended acts was unclear. Furthermore, the court noted that these acts were supposed to target an unspecified group of people.

Court Rulings Shed New Light on Domestic Terror Plot Defendants

Weapons and ammunition

Two recently released verdicts from the Court of Appeal (Landsréttur) shed new light on the two defendants in the ongoing domestic terror case, RÚV reports. One of the defendants described himself as a Nazi while the other maintained that he was a humanist who believed in God.

Benefit of the doubt

In December, formal charges were brought against two men suspected of plotting a domestic terror attack in Iceland. They have been free to travel since the Court of Appeal revoked their custody during the middle of last month.

When the district attorney filed to extend custody over the two men, the Court of Appeal concluded that it was impossible to establish that there was a strong suspicion that the men had intended to commit acts of terrorism. The District Court of Reykjavík had previously ruled that the suspects must be given the benefit of the doubt, as a detailed evaluation by a psychiatrist had shown that they did not pose a threat.

Known each other for some time

As reported by RÚV, the Court of Appeal recently published two rulings made in October concerning the case. The hearings shed new light on the two defendants, who, at the time, had been in custody and isolation for almost three weeks. The documents show that the men had known each other for a long time and, among other things, were colleagues at a construction company.

One of the men has been charged with attempted terrorism. A little over a week before he was arrested, the police had found three 3D printers and four firearms in his home. He was later taken into custody but released a week later as the police had not been able to access his phone. When they finally managed to access his phone, the police discovered messages between the man and the other defendant where they discussed, among other things, Nazism, mass murder, and the purchase and sale of weapons. The two men were subsequently arrested in a large-scale operation by the National Police Commissioner, the district prosecutor, and the Capital Area Police.

Claimed to be a humanist

During the first hearing, the defendant admitted that he had engaged in conversations with the other man: that they were friends and that they shared a special sense of humour. He stated that he was unemployed, having lost his job two months earlier, that he believed in God, and that he had been confirmed into the church. He maintained, however, that he didn’t follow politics and bore no ill will towards politicians.

He also stated that the messages he had sent were meaningless and were a product of their odd sense of humour: He was a humanist who cared about LGBT people and people of colour. He added that many people considered his friend to be a Nazi who hated both Jews and Muslims. He could not, however, explain why he had been searching the internet for the date of the annual celebration of the police; he was bitter and hurt but did not want to explain it further.

Intended to produce methamphetamine and not explosives

In a hearing one week later, the defendant repeated that his comments were meaningless, that he and his friend shared a dark sense of humour. He was not an angry man and that, generally speaking, he cared for other people.

In the third hearing, he reported that the list of chemicals found by the police was not intended for bomb-making but for the production of methamphetamine. In the fourth hearing, he stated that all of their talk about the police annual celebration and the Pride parade – as well as their talk about assassinating political leaders –  had been a joke. He concluded by saying that he was ashamed of his comments.

Discontent with LGBTQ people and foreigners

During the first hearing, the other defendant, charged with complicity, described himself as a recluse and admitted that others called him a Nazi. He said that he often offended people by speaking openly, something he was aware of and that had led to his sense of isolation.

He stated that he was part of the group the Right Wing and that he believed gays were given too much space in society and should be kept away from children. He also expressed discontent with the many foreigners streaming into the country, who did not work and lived off the system. He added that he was a big weapon and bomb enthusiast. His partner had aired the idea of running people down during the Pride parade but that he hadn’t actively participated in the conversation, that he had just gone along with it.

A week later, a statement was taken from him again. During that interview, he said that he realised that the data that the police had gathered would look very bad for him. “He claimed to be a Nazi,” the ruling states.

Repeated during the hearing that he was a Nazi

He described the other defendant as being vengeful and bitter as he had been refused a firearms licence; it had taken a toll on him. He denied, however, that he had planned to carry out terrorist acts. Asked why others described him as anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic, he said that it probably had to do with his being a Nazi. He repeated that observation later in the same hearing.

In the third hearing, the man’s reasoning had slightly altered, RÚV notes. He stated that all the talk about terrorism, assassinations, and bomb-making was meaningless. He had been drunk when he made those comments. He admitted, however, that he had saved a video of a certain terrorist attack with the words that the terrorist in the attack was “a god” but again claimed that he had been inebriated.

Tried to cool his partner down

During the third hearing, he outlined his concerns about his friend, whom he said had gone too far in his discussions about drone strikes. At that time, he had begun to believe that his friend could carry out such plans and that he had attempted to cool his friend down.

The indictment against the men will be registered in the Reykjavík District Court in the middle of this month. The National Police Commissioner raised the alert level after the men were released. No information was received as to whether the office would have a special presence in the district court when the men appear before the court, RÚV notes.

Europol Experts Believed Terror Suspects Posed Imminent Threat

Héraðsdómur Reykjavíkur Reykjavík District Court

The two men recently charged with planning a domestic terrorist attack were believed to pose an imminent threat by Europol experts, Vísir reports. A ruling made by the Court of Appeal, published yesterday, notes that the defendants had discussed launching an attack on Parliament, the Ministry of Justice, and the police authorities.

The Court of Appeal overturns custody ruling

On Tuesday, the Court of Appeal overturned a ruling by Reykjavík’s District Court revoking the extended custody of two men recently charged with violating Article No. 100 of Iceland’s General Penal Code (pertaining to acts of terrorism). The Court of Appeal ruled that the defendants, who had been held in custody since September, were to be released on the basis of a mental assessment that concluded that they were not a danger to themselves or others.

Yesterday, the Court of Appeal published its ruling on its  website. The judgment references the overturned Reykjavík District Court ruling, which notes that the police authorities had consulted with Europol experts on the case. Having reviewed the case files, the Europol experts concluded that the two men were likely to take imminent action and commit acts of terrorism in Iceland.

Had begun penning his own manifesto

As reported by Iceland Review earlier this year, when the defendants were arrested in September, the police seized semi-automatic rifles, including AK-47s and AR-15s, along with ammunition and components for 3D-printed guns. Court documents state that the police also seized an item that could be inserted into an AR-15 rifle so as to make it automatic.

Court documents also note that the men possessed material concerning known terrorists and their atrocities, in addition to manifestos. The suspect who is the subject of the ruling denied that he was planning an act of domestic terrorism, maintaining that comments concerning various terrorist atrocities were harmless: they had been made in jest and under the influence of alcohol. The same held for all the other material that they had acquired.

Court documents further maintain that the defendant had begun to pen his own manifesto.

Last night, RÚV reported that the District Attorney would yet again motion for custody.

 

 

Terror Suspect’s Defence Attorney “Astonished” by “Vague” Charges

Héraðsdómur Reykjavíkur Reykjavík District Court

Earlier today at the District Court of Reykjavík, formal charges were brought against two men suspected of planning a domestic-terror attack. A defence attorney for one of the suspects has told Vísir that he is “astonished” by the charges.

Custody extended by an additional four weeks

As reported earlier today, the District Prosecutor filed a motion for extended custody over two men suspected of planning a domestic terror attack earlier this year. The court approved the motion, and custody was extended for an additional four weeks.

Formal charges were also brought against the two suspects. One of the suspects was charged with an act of attempted terrorism and weapons offences. The other suspected was charged as an accomplice to an act of attempted terrorism, weapons offences, and a minor narcotics violation.

Hairy as a “chimpanzee’s back”

Speaking to Vísir today, Sveinn Andri Sveinsson, defence attorney for one of the suspects, stated that he was “astonished” by the charges: “They’re charged with unspecified offences against an unspecified group of people at an unspecified time between May and September. It’s as hairy as a chimpanzee’s back.”

According to Sveinn Andri, the police authorities had been too extreme in their initial operations. “The only attempted offence, in this case, was an attempt to destroy the lives of two young men,” Sveinn Andri observed.

“The charges are founded on weapons that they had hoarded. My client was not in possession of any weapons. There’s a reference to weapon production. These are probably the first terrorists who hoard weapons but then sell them before committing an act of terrorism, which must constitute a highly questionable for of preparation,” Sveinn Andri remarked.

Sveinn Andri added that he and his client would have to “roll with the punches.” They would begin by examining a motion for dismissal, given the vague nature of the charges.

“It’s complete nonsense. Terrible. You’ve completely upended the lives of these two young men on the basis of ego. The police jumped the gun in the beginning and everything that they’ve done since has been geared toward justifying that initial jump.”

Domestic-Terror Suspects Engaged in a “Failed Attempt at Humour,” Attorney Says

Terror plot

The defence attorney for one of the two men held in custody suspected of planning a domestic-terror attack has dismissed private messages between the suspects as a “failed attempt at humour.” He does not believe that either of the men will be charged with planning a terrorist attack, Vísir reports.

Custody extended by four weeks

On Tuesday, the Court of Appeal confirmed the further four-week custody of two men arrested last month suspected of planning a domestic-terrorism attack. 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. The men had also discussed carrying out attacks against political figures, among them Minister Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson and Chairman of Efling, Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir.

“Having spoken with my client, it appears that the police got ahead of itself in their press conferences and the like. It appears as if this is a matter of a firearms violation,” Sveinn Andri Sveinsson, the new defence attorney for one of the suspects, told Vísir.

Sveinn Andri stated that his client admits to weapons offences but that the men were not planning a real domestic-terror attack, suggesting that that charge rests solely on the evidence of private messages: “It was merely a failed attempt at humour by these two boys; the idea that they had been planning an act of terrorism on public chatrooms, that just doesn’t hold any water.”

“My client is a harmless wretch who wouldn’t hurt a fly. He’s as far from a terrorist as one can imagine. He has no interest in politics, believes that the Pirates are actual buccaneers and not a political party, and so on, and so forth.”

When asked if he believed that the court’s primary task would be to decide whether or not private messages between the two men were “failed attempts at humour,” Sveinn replied that he was altogether unsure whether the charge of planning a terrorist attack would be brought against the two suspects.

“I’m not sure that it’ll go as far as that; my feeling is that, in the end, they’ll be charged for weapons offences to which they will then admit.”

Would-Be Terrorists Discussed Killing Minister Guðlaugur Þór

Minister for Foreign Affairs Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson.

The two men being held in police custody accused of planning a domestic terrorism attack in Iceland had reportedly discussed killing Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson – Minister of the Environment, Energy, and Climate.

The “first investigation of its kind” in Iceland

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. Last Friday, the District Court of Reykjavík approved the District Attorney’s request to extend their custody by four weeks.

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. The men, both of whom are in their twenties, had reportedly discussed carrying out an attack during the police’s annual celebration (which was held on October 1).

Politicians among would-be targets

Yesterday, RÚV reported that the suspects had also discussed killing Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson, Minister of the Environment, Energy, and Climate. The Chief of Police reportedly notified the Minister of the suspects’ intentions prior to calling the Minister in for questioning.

As reported on October 10, the suspects had also discussed targeting Efling chairperson Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir and Gunnar Smári Egilsson, chairperson of the Socialist Party. The names of current and former Pirate Party politicians were also mentioned as possible targets.

The police have asked a psychiatrist to assess the earnestness of the remarks made by the men during private messages, with the suspects’ lawyers contending that the threats were empty. Chief Police Inspector Karl Steinar Valsson has stated that this is the “first investigation of its kind” to be launched in Iceland.