Sentenced to 16 Years in Prison for Rauðagerði Murder

Héraðsdómur Reykjavíkur Reykjavík District Court

The Reykjavík District Court sentenced Angjelin Sterkaj to 16 years in prison for the murder of Armando Bequirai this morning, RÚV reports. The other three defendants in the case were acquitted. After police presented him with evidence of his guilt, Angjelin confessed to the murder, which he claimed was committed in self-defence.

Armando Bequirai was shot to death outside his home on Rauðagerði street in Reykjavík on February 13, 2021. He was in his 30s and left behind a wife and two children, who were in the home at the time the murder took place. The police investigation in the case was the most extensive in Icelandic history, and suspicion soon arose that the murder was part of a settlement between criminal groups, domestic as well as international.

Deputy District Prosecutor Kolbrún Benediktsdóttir demanded that the sentence for Angjelin should be between 16 and 20 years, arguing that the murder was a well-organised execution. The three other defendants, Claudia Sofia Coelho Carvahlo, Shpetim Qerimi and Selivrada Mura, all pleaded not guilty and said they did not know what Angjelin had intended to do in Rauðagerði.

Angjelin was also sentenced to pay ISK 4 million [$31,000, €27,000] in damages to Armando’s widow, Þóranna Helga Gunnarsdóttir, as well as ISK 27 million [$209,000, €180,000] due to loss of income, and just over ISK 500,000 [$3,900, €3,300] for funeral costs. He was also sentenced to pay damages to Armando’s parents and his two children, as well as the legal fees of the defence.

Suspended Prison Sentence, 800K Fine for Defamation of Character

The Reykjavík District Court handed down a four-month suspended prison sentence for lewd conduct and significant defamation of character to a local man on Thursday, RÚV reports. The man has also been sentenced to pay his former fiancé ISK 800,000 [$5,792; €4,931] in damages.

Per the court ruling, in December 2018, the man sent his ex’s then-boyfriend messages saying that she was dishonest and repeatedly calling her names. He then sent a sexual video of the woman to her boyfriend and three other people. The District Court found that in so doing, the man had shamed, insulted, and degraded the woman.

The man openly admitted his offenses to the court and did not contest the charges made against him.

No Laws in Place for Pardoning Drowned Woman 300 Years Later

There is no law in place to pardon or reprieve Halldóra Jónsdóttir, who was drowned in Fljótsdalur valley close to 300 years ago. Halldóra was sentenced to death for incest after her father raped her and murdered their child. Kristín Amalía Atladóttir, who has fought for Halldóra’s pardon, believes that there is a need for a change in laws or that Iceland take up a new form of pardon.

The grim case of Halldóra
Halldóra Jónsdóttir is one of over 50 women who were drowned for incest or ‘dulsmál’. Dulsmál is the old Icelandic word for when childbirth was hidden and the child murdered. Halldóra, who was born in 1700 in Þórarinsstaðir in Seyðisfjörður, lost her mother at a young age and lived in isolation with her father and younger siblings. At the age of 24, a rumour started that a baby might have been born in Þórarinsstaðir farm. Local authorities headed to the farm and dub up the body of a child from the dirt floor. Halldóra’s father, Jón Eyjólfsson, admitted to raping his daughter and burying the child without Halldóra’s knowledge. Jón was beheaded at Þingvellir and had his head placed on a spike, as was the punishment according to the Stóridómur law book in place at the time. Halldóra was also sentenced to death. A more lenient punishment was considered, but ultimately she was sentenced to execution as she had not publicly denounced her father. Halldóra was drowned in Bessastaðaá river in Fljótsdal valley on August 17 1729, five years after authorities heard about the child she bore in 1724. Her case is believed to be one of the most damning cases of the injustice women faced at the time.

Kristín Amalía Atladóttir has raised attention to this case and has formally applied for her pardon with Icelandic authorities. According to Kristín, the President and Prime Minister were positive towards her request, but the matter pertains to the Ministry of Justice. The President has permission from the constitution to pardon or reprieve individuals but does so according to requests from the Ministry of Justice. The Ministry of Justice stated in a letter that it is impossible to pardon Halldóra according to the law as the punishment has already been performed. A reprieve might be more fitting in this case, but it has not yet been placed into law and is not consistent with the main rule of an independent prosecution in Iceland. Furthermore, it would be abnormal for a minister to be able to interfere with criminal cases.

Restored honour
The President of Iceland had permission to provide restored honour until 2017 when the Parliament voted to revoke the permission after a case of restored honour ultimately brought down the Icelandic Government. The government disbanded as the father of the Prime Minister at the time, Bjarni Benediktsson, was among the individuals who provided a letter of recommendation for convicted paedophile Hjalti Sigurjón Hauksson to have his honour restored. This fact was hidden from other members of the Government and was later brought to light, ultimately bringing down the Government as members of the party Björt Framtíð voted to disband the majority. Restoring honour was an old Icelandic legal procedure which in effect allowed people who served their sentences to apply for jobs in certain professions and be a member of a company board. It did not affect individuals’ criminal record and is not a pardon.

Time for a change?
Kristín says the Ministry of Justice’s response does not come as a surprise. “I had received hints from the Prime Minister’s Office that this would be the result, so this doesn’t come as a surprise. It is simply so that the matter doesn’t fit into the laws currently in place,” she said.

She hasn’t yet decided whether she will push for law reform, or whether there’s a need for the creation of a so-called posthumous pardon. That law exists in other countries, such as the United Kingdom which granted Allan Turing a posthumous pardon in 2014. Turing had been sentenced for homosexuality in 1952. “I believe there’s a need for it. It’s a completely symbolic act but the symbolic dimension is really the basis of civilization. We need to have tools which can correct wrongdoings and other such actions for ourselves. So that we can say to ourselves: We are a civilized people. We learn from experience. We make up for our wrongdoings,” Kristín stated.

Read more about the history of executions in Iceland. The People’s History, an excerpt from an Iceland Review magazine article.

Man Who Stole Sailboat ‘On a Whim’ Receives Suspended Sentence

A German man who stole a sailboat from the harbour in Ísafjörður in the Westfjords this fall has received a suspended sentence of three months in prison, RÚV reports. The man confessed to the theft and was cooperative during the resulting police investigation.

The man used a screwdriver to break into the Inook sailboat on the evening of Saturday, October 13th and then sailed it out of the harbour. By the time the theft was reported the next day, the man had sailed the boat from the Westfjords to Breiðafjörður, where the boat was spotted by a Coast Guard helicopter. The Coast Guard directed the man to sail to the harbour at Rif, a small fishing village on the Snæfellsnes peninsula, where he was arrested.

Vísir reports that the man told authorities that he’d stolen the boat on a “sudden whim” and had no explanation for his actions except that he’d been looking for a little adventure.

The man has been subject to a travel ban since he was arrested. In addition to his suspended prison sentence, he was also sentenced to pay just over one million krónur [$8,105; €7,132] in litigation costs.

Court Upholds Sentence but Criticises Interrogation Procedure

Iceland’s Court of Appeals admonished police for their initial interrogation of Thomas Møller Olsen, who was found guilty of the murder of Birna Brjánsdóttir and of drug smuggling on January 14, 2017, RÚV reports. Although the court has confirmed Thomas’ original sentence of 19 years in prison and says that there is no realistic possibility that he is innocent of these crimes, it did criticise police for their initial interrogation methods, which they said contravened established procedure regarding the rights of individuals who have been placed under arrest.

Thomas Møller Olsen has protested his innocence throughout the initial court case and, in September, appealed for a reduced sentence, saying that it was his shipmate who was to blame for Birna’s murder. He also claimed that he had been harassed when he was arrested and prevented from sleeping – woken every two hours, screamed at, and called insulting names by police.

The Court of Appeals confirmed that Thomas had been detained for 44 hours before being charged, during which time he was interrogated three times. After this time period, he was taken before a judge as required by law and made to submit to various biological screening and DNA tests by the police forensics unit. Police say that there is often little time in between such tests, which accounts for why Thomas was not allowed more time to rest, as does the fact that he was under strong suspicion in the disappearance of a young girl who had yet to be found by authorities. Given that the first 24 hours of a disappearance of this nature are considered to be of vital importance to an investigation, police say that this schedule was unavoidable.

The Court of Appeals underscored the importance of law enforcement always treating suspects with courtesy and respect and of insuring that their own demeanors are always calm when interacting with people under arrest. Even so, however, this did not have any effect on Thomas’ sentence, which the court upheld on Friday, November 23, namely 19 years in prison and a combined total of ISK seven million ($56,579/€49,882) paid in compensation to Birna’s parents. The prosecution originally requested a sentence of 18 years at the District Court, but Thomas received a heavier sentence, presumably because he tried to shift the blame for his crime to another person.

Police Look for Björn Daníel Sigurðsson

Update: Björn Daníel has been found and is now in police custody.

​Björn Daníel Sigurðsson is wanted by Reykjavík capital area police, Vísir reports. Björn Daníel was required to begin serving a four-year sentence on Saturday for physical assault, threats, and sexual assault against his former common-law partner, but failed to present himself to authorities.

Björn Daníel is 26 years old, 180cm (5’10’’) tall, and weighs around 80kg (176lbs.). He was last seen wearing sportswear and white shoes.

Individuals with information about Björn Daníel’s whereabouts or movements are asked to call police immediately at 112.