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Police repression against ecoactivists in Iceland

category scandinavia / denmark / iceland | repression / prisoners | non-anarchist press author Tuesday April 22, 2008 05:09author by Vilhelm Vilhelmsson - Saving Icelandauthor email savingiceland at riseup dot netauthor address Report this post to the editors

Police sue activist for damaging police car used to ram him down

After years of illegal surveillance, threats, violence and intimidation against ecoactivists, the Icelandic police have now reached new heights in arbitrary repression by suing Olafur Pall Sigurdsson for property damage against a police vehicle which was deliberately driven into him at a potentially fatal speed.Olafur Pall Sigurdsson is a founding member and prominent activist involved in the Saving Iceland movement which has for several years used direct action and civil disobedience to try and stop aluminum giants like Alcoa and Alcan, as well as the Icelandic government, from turning vast areas of wilderness in the Icelandic highlands into flooded dams providing electricity for aluminum factories in small coastal towns.

On Monday 21st April 2008 Saving Iceland Founder, Olafur Pall Sigurdson, will appear before the District Court of East Iceland charged with property damage. The charge relates to an incident at Snæfell Mountain protest camp in the end of July 2006.

All the civilian witnesses recount that a police 4x4 was deliberately driven into Sigurdsson at a potentially fatal speed. The driver, officer 8716 Arinbjorn Snorrason, a high ranking officer in charge of operations at Kárahnjúkar, also attempted to run over other protestors on multiple occasions that same summer, at Lindur (now submerged location of a SI action camp) and at an action on Desjarárstífla dam construction site.

In the run up to the incident the police in the vehicle driven by Snorrason had arrived at the camp in order to harass and provoke the protestors. The police were photographing protestors from inside the stationary vehicle as they queued up for lunch outside a kitchen tent. A small group of people, including Sigurdsson, went towards the police car. Suddenly and without warning Snorrason accelerated aggressively towards Sigurdsson who stood in the road, hitting him. All who were present were amazed that he survived the assault relatively unscathed.

Since the incident could realistically have cost him his life Sigurdsson made a formal charge against the police. The State Prosecutor declared half a year later that he saw no reason to allow this charge to go further after talking to the police that were present. Despite several civilian witnesses being willing to give evidence against the police, they were never approached for statement. The State Prosecutor has refused to take any action to investigate what could have lead to Sigurdsson's death, except of course talking to the perpetrators, who made a counter charge. Now, almost two years later, the case will be heard at the District Court.

The demand is that Sigurdsson should pay a compensation for damage to the vehicle (supposedly resulting from when it was driven into him), and that he be punished according to law. When the incident took place Sigurdsson was still legally bound by a suspended prison sentence for splashing ‘skyr’ (a yogurt like liquid) with two other protestors over delegates of an international aluminium conference that took place in Reykjavik in June 2005. Consequently, if Sigurdsson is convicted of damaging the police car, he could be imprisoned.

The protestors accuse the police of wanting to take revenge on Saving Iceland. “This mix of personal malice and complete lack of respect for the democratic right to protest is typical for the Icelandic police when it comes to SI protestors.” says a spokesperson for Saving Iceland.

“Saving Iceland are of the opinion that this actual criminal act of the police, intended to cause physical harm to Sigurdsson, has been allowed by the State Prosecutor to be turned into a farcical political trial disguised as a routine 'criminal damage' case. If this court case will result in Sigurdsson having to serve time in prison he will clearly be doing so as a political prisoner of the Icelandic State. Icelandic authorities should not think that they will be allowed to keep such scandalous abuse of justice secret from the international community.”

Additional background information

Earlier this year Thorsteinn Davidsson was appointed District Judge of East Iceland, his father; David Oddsson (Former Prime Minister of long standing and now Chairman of the National Bank) is widely considered to be one of the masterminds behind the government’s heavy industry policy. The appointment of Davidsson as District Judge caused huge waves of indignation in Iceland and a hail of accusations of nepotism, even from high places in the judicial system. “Perhaps sensing that the veneer of respectability covering this blatant fit up is wearing too thin Davidsson has stepped down as judge in Sigurdsson’s case.” said the SI spokesperson.

Most people who were at any of the three different Saving Iceland camps in the summer of 2006 have some anecdote about officer Snorrason. Whether he attempted to run them over, slashed at their belongings with a knife, cable tied them face down in the mud for hours or almost broke their necks with a pair of bolt cutters. “Everyone remembers him as dangerous and erratic.” said the spokesperson.

These are certainly not the first instances of reports about state repression of Saving Iceland activists. Police have consistently entered dwellings without warrants, used excessive force when arresting protestors and on one occasion hospitalized Johann Axelsson, an elderly professor who was a witness to an illegal arrest. Throughout the summers of 2005 and 2006 marked and unmarked police cars tailed SI vehicles from one side of the island to the other. In Reykjavik in August 2005, as this surveillance continued, the Assistant Head of the State Police categorically denied (in Frettabladid newspaper) that any activists were under surveillance – that is until the police were caught out and filmed (and televised) following Sigurdsson in his car around the same roundabout several rounds by veteran TV reporter Omar Ragnarsson. In 2005 the Directorate of Immigration drew up a ‘blacklist’ of foreign activists that police were to hunt down and deport, first the DoI denied the existence of the list, then when proved not to be telling the truth; admitted finally that the deportations attempts had no legal foundations. More recently the police attempted to have environmental scientist Miriam Rose deported, shortly after she had been made to serve 8 days imprisonment in the isolation unit of a men’s prison for her involvement in opposing heavy industry projects, on the grounds that she was ‘A serious threat to the fundamental values of society’.

These constant police violations of both international and Icelandic laws regarding the rights of protestors have in this month (April) prompted the Left Green Party to demand that the Minister of Justice write a report about the conduct of the police against SI protestor. The demand was voted in favor of in the Icelandic Parliament by an overwhelming majority.

The case against Sigurdsson will commence on Monday at 13.00 hrs in room 101 at the Reykjavik District Court.

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