A Norwegian appeals court in Bergen, known as Gulating lagmannsrett, has convicted a former top politician for the Progress Party, for having sexual relations with a teenage boy. The court sentenced Trond Birkedal to seven months in prison but he still claims he’s innocent.
Birkedal, once one of Progress Party leader Siv Jensen’s closest advisers, announced on social media Wednesday afternoon that he would appeal his conviction to Norway’s Supreme Court. “The conviction is wrong and I am innocent,” Birkedal wrote. “The case will be appealed to the highest court.”
Birkedal was also convicted by a lower court, the city court in his hometown of Stavanger, of indecent behaviour after he admitted to secretly filming young men in his bathroom and using a false Internet profile for online chatting. He was acquitted, however, on charges he had sexual contact with the then-15-year-old boy who was a new recruit to the Progress Party.
Prosecutors appealed the acquittal and the case was heard earlier this month in the appeals court in Bergen, which serves the western counties of Rogaland, Hordaland and Sogn og Fjordane and is one of six appeals courts in Norway. The court delivered its verdict on Thursday and it was, as Birkedal himself put it, “diametrically opposed” to the Stavanger city court’s ruling.
Arvid Sjødin, defense attorney for Birkedal, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that he attributed the reversal to what he called “a bingo situation” in the Norwegian court system.
“We had a case where there was a clear acquittal in the Stavanger court,” Sjødin told NRK. “The same evidence was presented but now the appeals court ends up with a completely different conclusion. That says something about the bingo situation we have in the Norwegian court system.”
Sjødin said he was confident the case would be taken up by Norway’s highest court (Høyesterett). He claimed Birkedal’s testimony wasn’t evaluated and that the credibility of his accuser was evaluated according to varying premises.
Newspaper Rogalands Avis reported that the court ruling encompassed the sneak filming carried out by Birkedal and that he had portrayed himself as a girl in online chatting, to get contact with young boys and get them to send photos to him.
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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