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Acquittal Requested in Unsolved Murder Case

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Acquittal Requested in Unsolved Murder Case

The state prosecutor has requested a full acquittal for the individuals sentenced in the infamous Guðmundur and Geirfinnur case, mbl.is reports. Davíð Þór Björgvinsson, the representative of the prosecution in the reopening of the case, released his verdict to the Supreme Court of Iceland today. The defendants of the six people who were sentenced for their role in the case have now been given time to turn in their reports. The confessions of the six individuals eventually sentenced for the murders of Guðmundur and Geirfinnur are believed to faulty.

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 were 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 Viðarsson, 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.

Cases reopened

The committee of reopening cases agreed to reopen 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.

"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.

Media features

'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.

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