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.

Guðmundur and Geirfinnur Cold Case Re-Opened?

The police in the Reykjavík metropolitan area are now assessing whether to re-open the investigation into the disappearance of Guðmundur Einarsson and Geirfinnur Einarsson, Vísir reports. The pair disappeared nearly half a century ago but a number of new clues have come to light in recent years. These new clues might make it feasible to re-open the investigation. Guðmundur and Geirfinnur were never found, but six people were convicted of their alleged murders based on confessions extracted by police by intense and lengthy interrogations which included torture and solitary confinement. The sentences were passed despite a lack of of bodies, witnesses, or any forensic evidence. Five of the six originally sentenced were acquitted on the 27th of September, 2018, 44 years after Guðmundur’s and Geirfinnur’s disappearance.

“We are assessing our options and looking into how we might go about it. It’s now explicit that the case isn’t fully solved”, Sigríður Björk Guðjónsdóttir, head of police of the Reykjavík metropolitan police, stated. Sigríður says that the police have to assess the new data that has come forward in the case, and if they give a reason for a special investigation. It is the norm to only open closed cases when new data has been presented.

Sigríður stated the police was not involved in the recently completed re-trial of the case of five of the six who were sentenced for Guðmundur’s and Geirfinnur’s appearance. Read more about the re-trial, and the following aquittal, here.

Read more about the Guðmundur and Geirfinnur case here.

New leads on Geirfinnur

A man presented himself to the police at the end of 2016 and stated that he saw three men dressed in civilian clothing arriving on a small boat to Vestmannaeyjar on the 20th of November, 1974. This was the day after Geirfinnur Einarsson disappeared in Keflavík. Two of the men led the third between them appeared weak, and almost without consciousness. They arrived into the fish processing plant which the eyewitness was situated and stayed there for some time with the company chef’s permission.

The weak man in the middle was to have said “Remember me” when they got ready to return to the boat. The eyewitness then saw them head to the boat and out to sea. A while later they returned to shore but only two people left the boat. The witness did not see the two men again until two decades later, when he saw one of them in East Iceland working on electricity lines for Landsvirkjun.

A report was also taken of the eyewitness’ ex-girlfriend who was with him in Vestmannaeyjar. She did not see the three men, but she received a phone call two days later where she and the witnessed were threatened with execution. They feared the threat and therefore said nothing until now.

New leads on Guðmundur

Stefán Almarsson, who is believed to have lied to the police that Kristján Viðar Leifsson and Sævar Cieselski played a part in Guðmundur’s disappearance, was interrogated by police in 2015. The interrogation took place due to testimony by Stefán’s ex-girlfriend, where she stated that she was a passenger in a car controlled by Stefán which struck Guðmundur Einarsson on the night before 27th of January 1974. According to her testimony, Guðmundur was taken into the car before she was driven home. Guðmundur was getting visibly worse for wear when she left the car.

Þórður Eyþórsson was also interrogated, as the woman stated he was among the passengers in the car. Both Stefán and Þórður steadfastly deny playing any part in Guðmundur’s disappearance.

A report of Stefán, from 1977, exists about his goings on the night before 27th of January 1974. There he states he was partying with his friend in Reykjavík. In the interrogation, this friend neither confirmed nor denied being with Stefán that night, but admitted that he knew Guðmundur from his primary school years. That man is the older brother of Þórður Eyþórsson and is said to have been a greater friend of Stefán than Þórður, who was 16 years old when Guðmundur’s disappearance took place.

In the spotlight

The case is well known outside Iceland. ‘Out of Thin Air’, a documentary covering the events of the Guðmundur and Geirfinnur case was released by Netflix in 2017. Directed by Dylan Howitt, the film covers the events of the murders and was inspired by the BBC programme ‘The Reykjavík Confessions’, which was released in 2014.

Acquittal in Guðmundur and Geirfinnur Case

The family members of the fivesome witnessed the acquittal today in an emotionally charged courtroom. Sævar Cieselski’s daughter couldn’t help but shed a tear at the retrial

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.

Erla Bolladóttir was the only one of the six charged for the murders not to get a retrial. Here she sits at the front row of today’s hearing, with the family of Tryggvi Rúnar Leifsson conversing with a judge in the background.

The lawyers of the defendants have made stark remarks about the hardship the defendants had to endure in the case. A full acquittal is requested for all of the individuals that were granted a retrial in the case, other than Guðjón Skarphéðinsson whose defendant requested that his client be declared innocent. Davíð Þór Björgvinsson, the district attorney in the case, has also requested a full acquittal of the individuals found guilty in the case.

Background

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.

The six individuals charged for the murders. From top left to bottom right: Sævar Cieselski, Erla Bolladóttir, Albert Klahn Skaftason, Tryggvi Rúnar Leifsson, Kristján Viðar Júlíusson, Guðjón Skarphéðinsson.

Cases reopened

The committee of reopening cases agreed to have a retrial for the cases of five individuals sentenced for their role in the Guðmundur and Geirfinnur case last February. The request to reopen the case on behalf of Erla Bolladóttir was rejected. A special committee was founded to handle the reopening of the case, and the committee believes that the foundation for the confessions is inadequate. The committee questions both the reliability of the confessions acquired as well as the forensic evidence surrounding the case. The time that it took to receive the confessions, along with the methods used to extract them are among the reasons listed for why the confessions are believed to be dubious at best. The bodies of Guðmundur and Geirfinnur were never found.

“I’ve worked on miscarriages of justice in many different countries. I’ve testified in several countries – hundreds of cases I’ve done, big cases. I’d never come across any case where there had been such intense interrogation, so many interrogations, and such lengthy solitary confinement. I was absolutely shocked when I saw that”, Gísli H. Guðjónsson, professor of Forensic Psychology at the Institute of Psychiatry of King’s College London.

Tryggvi Rúnar Leifsson received an acquittal today for his part in the case. His grandson and namesake, Tryggvi Rúnar Leifsson, along with Tryggvi’s daughter, take in the sentence.

In the spotlight

The case is well known outside Iceland. ‘Out of Thin Air’, a documentary covering the events of the Guðmundur and Geirfinnur case was released by Netflix in 2017. Directed by Dylan Howitt, the film covers the events of the murders and was inspired by the BBC programme ‘The Reykjavík Confessions’, which was released in 2014.

Guðmundur and Geirfinnur Retrial Begins

The retrial of six individuals sentenced in the infamous Guðmundur and Geirfinnur case decades ago began today, RÚV reports. In February of this year, the state prosecutor requested a full acquittal of the individuals sentenced in the infamous case, and the trial began today.

Davíð Þór Björgvinsson, the case prosecutor, is building his plea on the verdict of a committee which ruled to reopen the case last year. Davíð Þór argues that new evidence, including the diaries of Tryggvi Rúnars Leifsson and Kristján Viðar Víðarsson, two of the six people convicted in the case, call for a full acquittal of the six individuals. He also adds that the harsh treatment of the accused during the handling of the case was not considered in the original ruling.

The case revolves around the disappearance of two men, Guðmundur Einarsson and Geirfinnur Einarsson (no relation), in 1974. Six people were ultimately convicted of the murders of these two men and received prison sentences of various lengths, up to 17 years. The convictions were based on confessions extracted from the individuals during lengthy interrogations. Their validity as evidence has since been refuted, as records show the accused were held in extended solitary confinement, drugged, and in some cases tortured.

The case is well known outside of Iceland. In 2014, it was the subject of a BBC programme called The Reykjavík Confessions, while in 2017 a documentary on the topic was released on Netflix, titled Out of Thin Air.