The mayor of the picturesque Norwegian mountain town of Vågå was due in court on Tuesday to defend himself against charges that he sexually assaulted a young teenage girl over a period of two years. In an unusual move for such cases, it won’t be conducted behind closed doors.
Rune Øygård was a prominent politician in the Labour Party with close ties to Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg when the girl filed charges against him in September of last year. He was indicted six months later and the trial will be held in Lillehammer, since Øygård was so well-known in Vågå and it would have been difficult to find impartial judges.
Øygård, age 53, denies assaulting the girl and hasn’t appealed her request that the trial be conducted openly. Stoltenberg was initially expected to be called as a witness for the defense, but has since been excused.
“Given the job he’s had (since 1995) it’s not unexpected that this case is getting a lot of attention,” Øygård’s defense attorney Mette Yvonne Larsen told news bureau NTB. She said her client was keen to get the trial underway and tell his version.