An Icelander who escaped custody and fled the country has been arrested in Holland, and will be brought back to Iceland soon. It has also come to light that the police had no legal authority to hold him in custody in the first place.
RÚV reports that Sindri Þór Stefánsson, who escaped from a minimum security prison last week and caught a plane to Sweden, has been apprehended in Holland. The matter is now under the jurisdiction of both the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It is still uncertain at the time of this writing when exactly he will be brought back to Iceland.
One twist that has arisen in this case, RÚV reports, is that it has come to light that the police had no legal authority to hold Sindri – who was not convicted of a crime, but was only being held as a suspect in a computer heist case – in the first place.
The crux of the matter rests on Iceland’s laws about holding suspects in custody. Sindri’s period of custody actually expired last Monday afternoon. Earlier that day, Sindri appeared in court where the judge had said they would take 24 hours to decide whether or not to extend the period of Sindri’s custody.
While police contend that this effectively means he was still in custody, Kristín Benediktsdóttir, an associate professor in judicial procedure at the law department of the University of Iceland, says that Iceland’s constitution is very clear on the matter: you cannot hold someone in custody without legal permission to do so.
Here she refers specifically to a Supreme Court case from 2013. In that instance, a suspect was brought to court ten minutes before his period of custody expired. The judge in that instance also took a 24-hour period to decide whether or not to extend the period of custody.
The Supreme Court decided in that case that the police had no legal authority to hold the suspect while the judge made their decision, and the suspect was therefore unlawfully held in custody by the police during that 24-hour period.
Whether Sindri will face additional charges for having left prison and fled the country, regardless of the legality of his being held in custody, still remains to be seen.
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