We were 19 years old when we left Iceland to stay in Copenhagen in December 1974. We had embezzled a considerable sum of money from the state, originally as an expression of our contempt for stupid people in power. Life seemed so much simpler then; we felt that we knew and understood everything about life.
One year later we were back in Iceland and our baby girl was born. We didn’t think much about the past anymore. As our girl turned 11 weeks old, our past came knocking on the door. We were under arrest for the embezzlement and for importing cannabis.
Instead of releasing us after confessing our crimes of youth and rebellion, we were held in isolation and coerced into confessions of two murders which we knew nothing about. By the time I was released our little girl was 15 months old. Her father was only released after being held in custody for two years and consecutively serving half of a 17 years prison sentence by which time our baby was 9 years old. His exceptionally heavy prison sentence was based on a conviction for his involvement in two murders, the embezzlement, smuggling of cannabis as well as a couple of petty crimes and: PERJURY.
During the months following our confessions, the police investigation of one of the two alleged murders became complicated as our confessions were the only basis for the investigation with no physical evidence ever found, including the bodies of the two men who had disappeared without a trace, one and two years prior to our arrest. The complications led to our testimonies constantly changing and innocent people’s names being drawn into the alleged crimes during over a hundred long and cruel interrogations of each of us where lawyers were hardly ever present. This resulted in four innocent men eventually being arrested, based solely on our signatures on statements and held in isolation for 90-105 days after which they were released and cleared of any wrong doing. The outcome of our testimonies then resulted in the additional charge of perjury against these men for which three of six defendants were found guilty.
In June 2014 I filed for a reopening of my case of perjury and four out of the five others filed for a reopening of their cases as well. In February 2017 a reopening committee as well as the state prosecutor agreed to the reopening of all the cases except for the perjury. This was concluded on the basis that “the crime was proven” with regards to our signature on statements involving the innocent men. The district court ruling which was confirmed upon appeal to the Supreme Court it was determined that we had premeditated the perjury in case we were ever questioned about the alleged murder.
The fact that judicial authorities have agreed to reopen the cases speaks volumes about the cases’ inconsistencies as the Supreme Court had denied four applications to this effect since 1997. The grounds for a reopening are that the investigation as well as the courts’ verdicts prove to be seriously flawed with regards to the law and nothing can be found in the case documents to substantiate our confessions whatsoever but multiple evidence to the contrary has come to light in recent years including an alibi for two of us which disappeared from the case files during investigation or court proceedings.
By authorities considering our innocence with regards to the murders it begs the question about why we would have premeditated perjury concerning a horrible crime which never took place. In the district court’s findings in 1977 and the Supreme Court’s in 1980 it was determined that our perjury had been planned in order for us to escape the law by pointing at innocent people. However, from the first statements signed by us we incriminate ourselves by confessing to our involvement in the alleged murder, leaving the perjury pointless.
This is a much-simplified overview of my perjury case with countless facts of the whole case counting thousands of pages since 1975. A great deal of information about its developments has however been put into context on different fronts such as:
Stattu þig drengur
Erla, góða Erla
Out of thin air
Sugar Paper Theories
Several TV interviews and programs and other media coverage, domestic and international
As I still seek justice 42 years later, I seek it not for my personal gain. I have lived with the contempt and even hatred by the Icelandic community for decades with little support until later years. My image will never be rid of the darkness that has hovered over these resurfacing cases, regardless of future developments. And I don’t think my time on earth will allow for complete healing from the treatment by investigators and later judicial authorities, the condemnation and total rejection by the public, the loss of family connections, the tragic destruction and death of my daughter’s father, the lost opportunities in life, to name some of the consequences. I have learned to live with the reality of the pain and the role this has left with me. My motivation for a reopening of my case comes from my strong sense of justice in broad terms.
In spite of my hardship as an Icelander I have been able to work out some of the consequences, including finding forgiveness for all who have wronged me and here I must mention the inspiration I have received by observing Nelson Mandela’s actions in the 1990-s in South Africa where I lived at the time as well as making a study of the concept of forgiveness. This has freed me a great deal from my past and I have come to realize that Iceland is my home and I have a heart for the country and all its people. The health of our judicial system suffers for as long as injustice is in such a high-profile case is allowed to stand; it is of the utmost importance that the people experience courage and honesty by authorities in turning this tragedy into victory for justice, thus re-establishing some trust in the judicial system which has suffered for its past bad decisions. I wish this for all of our descendants, the children of this country and generations to come.
I am also motivated to see justice done for the sake of my daughter’s father's memory as he fought a life-long battle to have our convictions overturned and lost his life as a result of everything that transpired in connection with the cases, never having the good fortune of finding a path to work through his nightmarish experiences.
For as long as our convictions of perjury are allowed to stand, authorities are still escaping responsibility for what has been termed by the international media as the greatest miscarriage of justice in Europe in later times. For this reason, I must continue our battle where the next step for me is to sue the state to have the reopening committee’s ruling quashed on grounds of serious flaws in its substantiation. Such a legal act is costly. My highly respected and devoted attorney who was my daughter’s father’s attorney since 1996 was costed by the state in pursuing the reopening of my case on my behalf but as I have received the committee’s ruling I am on my own from here on. My attorney is ready to continue his work for me, but this is a costly procedure. After everything I have lost to this tragedy I struggle with the idea of now losing my home in order to finance this action. After carefully reviewing my case it is clear that I have a strong case and I am confident that it can only result in the annulment of the reopening committee’s ruling, which in turn will lead to a new ruling of the committee with different members appointed, basing the new ruling on my substantiation for the reopening.