– Thank you for your attention. 69-year-old Arvid Sjödin says that Netavisen has been named Netavisen Name of the Year for 2022.
Nettavisen’s editor-in-chief, Gunnar Stavrum, justifies the decision as follows:
– Arvid Sjodin has worked on several “impossible” cases over the years, including the judicial murders of Birgit Deng’s cousin and Vigko Christiansen. These cases are of great importance in the administration of justice and prevent victims of such judicial killings. Additionally, it has been an unpopular uphill battle with high personal risk. Online newspaper is amazing and honest. Arvid Sjødin is also there.
This fall, two major cases that attorney Arvid Sjodin has been fighting for decades have come to an end. Birgit Deng’s cousin has finally been acquitted of murdering her cousin. Viggo Kristiansen was acquitted of the murders in Panehia, for which he served 21 years in prison.
Now Sjødin is taking a well-deserved Christmas vacation, and he and his wife will visit his family in Vienna, where they will celebrate the holidays.
– Will your wife see you more in the future?
– She would have complimented me too much, but she’s nice, so it went well, says Sjodin.
The 69-year-old plans to scale back his work in the future and devote more time to his and his wife’s great pastimes.
– Less work and more travel. We like to travel together. Whether it’s a car trip in Norway or a flight away. I don’t want to retire yet, but I won’t take on many new cases, says Sjødin.
– The rule of law goes backwards
Despite developments in both the Baneheia case and the Tengs case this year, Sjødin does not see blue skies for legal protection in Norway. He is fed up with the Norwegian administration of justice, which has spent 24 years overturning a civil verdict against his cousin that effectively branded him a murderer. Sjødin has argued for this case countless times before the courts, the Supreme Court and the Storting.
– None of the courts could understand that the relative was coerced into giving the statement and there was no evidence. So they withheld judgment.
– Why do you think Norway as a country can allow such treatment in the administration of justice?
– It probably has to do with our culture. We accept what we say and do in court. If this were in France, people would be protesting in the streets, Sjødin believes.
After the Panehia and Dengs cases, there has been much talk about flaws in DNA evidence, police and prosecuting authorities not providing correct information, and the Commission for Reopening Criminal Cases not working. Sjødin is perhaps most concerned that those prosecuted will no longer have access to the best lawyers.
– The rule of law has gone backwards in Norway. The majority will no longer receive free actions (The limit is NOK 320,000, author’s note). Fee rates have actually fallen over the years, so the best lawyers aren’t going to apply to the criminal court, says Sjødin.
– I was deceived
A year-long struggle against Sjødin’s authority began in 1997.
– I was cheated by the police. Relative confesses to Birgit Deng’s murder. The police convinced him that he must have done it. They had proof that it had to be him. That he himself had suppressed it. Back then, it was not customary for the accused to have lawyers present when they were tried. I did not know that my cousin had chosen to speak to the interrogator instead of sitting alone in the cell. I didn’t know the police removed 24 ring binders with witness interviews of people who didn’t see anything. Witnesses must have walked the same route at the same time as Birgitte Tengs and her cousin, Sjødin says.
When the then 44-year-old defense lawyer realized that the police had built the criminal case against his relative on a false confession, he went to war against what would become large parts of the Norwegian civil service.
– Don’t let them fool me. I am so angry with the leadership of the police that you know nothing, says Sjodin today.
The relative was convicted in the District Court, but acquitted in 1998 at the Court of Appeal. Nevertheless, he was branded a murderer because he was sentenced to pay restitution to Birgit Deng’s parents for killing their daughter.
In 2022 only – After Johnny Wasbach was charged with the murder of Birgit Dengs – A judgment for damages against the relative was set aside. Sjodin’s fight led to the creation of a cold case team at Kripos, which began a new investigation into Deng’s case.
So it took 24 years for the Norwegian legal system to bring justice to Birgit Deng’s relative. 24 years of hard fighting that made Arvid Sjödin synonymous with someone who fights against the establishment. Today, he is being called from across the country who believe they have been innocently convicted.
An interview with Cousin’s father, Jacob, can be found here:
– Determined on faith and not evidence
– I get calls almost every day from all over the country from people asking me to report things they believe are wrong, says Sjødin.
He points out that even less severe punishments can have major consequences for people, and that Norwegian law today often does not give people the chance to clean themselves up.
– A common example is that the law provides limited access to appeal against a preliminary ruling. For some, a subpoena can have major consequences. It can prevent you from applying for a certain type of job. “It’s hard to explain to a future employer that the submission is really wrong, but I can’t appeal it,” says Sjødin.
Many approach him in cases they think he can’t win, but many have been wronged by a legal system they can’t fix.
– A major flaw in the legal system is that the court often rules based on what they think is right, not on what the evidence says. If you want to judge without evidence, the court is happy to write “on the basis of an overall assessment”, Sjødin adds:
– Here in Norway, there is a culture of acceptance of what is said and done in the courts.
In 2010, Panehia was linked to the case
In May 2000, Lena Slokedal Paulsen (10) and Stine Sophie Sorstronen (8) were raped and murdered in Panehia in Kristiansand. Jan Helge Andersen and Viggo Kristiansen were convicted of misdemeanors and spent more than 20 years in prison until he was released in June 2021. Sjodin became Kristiansen’s lawyer in 2010 and helped with the accused murderer’s third petition to the Commission for the Reopening of Criminal Cases.
11 years later, In February 2021, the commission voted to reopen the criminal case. This happened with a majority after a total of five petitions for resumption.
The most important piece of evidence against Christiansen was a statement given to his friend Jan Helge Andersen. There was no technical evidence against Christianson, and teledata from his phone proved he was not in Panehia when the murders took place.
– Now there are many people who fought for Viggo Kristiansen’s release, says Arvid Sjødin, referring to journalists such as Eivind Pedersen and Bjørn Olav Jahr. Zahar’s book was published in 2017, and contributed greatly to changing public opinion on the Panehia case.
– Must be a change
Sjødin believes that both the Panehia case and the Dengs case show that the Commission for Reopening Criminal Cases is not working, and that an entirely new provision is needed to ensure that convicted persons receive a fair trial of their cases.
– We do not know on what information the Commission based its decisions today. One can ask questions about who actually decides whether to reopen a case or not: the five members of the commission or the case manager who writes the recommendation to the commission, says Sjødin.
Viji wrote in December The same lawyer wrote all the plans for decisions in the processing of Vigo Kristiansen’s petitions. Sjødin says that he does not know what these proposals are based on and what information this case manager will send to the commission members.
– What do you think the commission will look like in five years?
– There must be a change. Or the Commission should have access to all case documents and review them itself. Or in the same way as during substantive proceedings in an ordinary court, an arrangement should be made where the parties present more evidence before the commission, says Sjødin.
At the same time, he says errors and shortcomings in how the commission operates have been pointed out before and this has not led to changes.
Sjødin will undoubtedly be heard in the coming years, at least in 2023, when Viggo Kristiansen goes to court to demand millions in compensation from the government.
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