More than three years after the body of young Norwegian student Martine Vik Magnussen was found in a London basement, hopes are rising that her assailant may finally be brought to justice. Former Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik is heavily involved in efforts to bring him to trial in the UK.
Bondevik told newspaper Aftenposten that officials at Scotland Yard are “in dialogue” with the attorney for the prime suspect, Farouk Abdulhak. Bondevik has also had a meeting with the attorney in Yemen, where Abdulhak fled before Magnussen’s body found.
Abdulhak was the last person seen with Magnussen late on the night of March 13 2008. The two, both students from wealthy families, left a London nightclub together and Magnussen’s body was found in the basement of the fashionable apartment house where Abdulhak was living. He disappeared but turned up in Yemen, where his father is one of the wealthiest men in the country.
He’s reportedly been hiding out in Yemen ever since. Police in London later charged him with Magnussen’s rape and murder, but the British government has no extradition treaty with Yemen.
Bondevik, who now works mostly as a peace broker, got involved after public demonstrations calling for “Justice for Martine” erupted in Oslo. Online support groups were formed and Magnussen’s father has been a central figure in efforts to keep the pressure also on Norway’s foreign ministry, which has tried to convince authorities in Yemen to take up the issue.
With Yemen in turmoil and its controversial president suggesting once again that he’ll resign, Abdulhak and his lawyer reportedly are considering calls to voluntarily return to London and stand trial.
“My advice (to Abdulhak’s lawyer) is that Abdulhak should return to Great Britain, so that a trial can occur with a verdict and sentence,” Bondevik told Aftenposten. “Then Abdulhak after some years will be a free man, not only in Yemen, but in the whole world. That’s the best solution for the two families involved and the best for Yemen’s image in the future.”
Bondevik said Scotland Yard investigators remain on the case and are “in dialogue” with Abdulhak’s attorney. Both Bondevik and Odd Petter Magnussen, the victim’s father, are “optimistic but realistic.”
Bondevik said he also has met with Farouk Abdulhak’s father and two of his contacts have met with Abdulhak himself. Bondevik said he has reason to believe both the Yemeni government and the opposition, which he called “fragmented,” also want Abdulhak to voluntarily stand trial in a British court.
Bondevik said no special deals were being offered, but Scotland Yard officials have described an extradition procedure and said it could occur without media coverage.
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