Rune Øygard, the longtime Labour Party politician and former mayor of Vågå, was back in court this week as he attempts to overturn his conviction for having sex with a minor. He was sentenced to five years in prison but continues to claim that his accuser is lying.
Norwegian media were once again giving the case broad coverage as Øygard’s appeal got underway in a court in Hamar. Attorneys on both sides were bracing for an even rougher trial this time, with the character of testimony expected to be explicit and difficult for all parties.
“This case is all about sexual assault, and it’s a question of how much my client will answer,” Nina Braathen Hjortdal, attorney for the now-17-year-old girl who accuses Øygard of assault. She was 13 at the time of their first alleged sexual encounter.
Hjortdal and prosecutors were expecting tough questioning from Øygard’s defense attorney Mette Yvonne Larsen, who told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) after trial preliminaries on Monday that she simply had “a job to do” and asked for respect to do it.
Øygard, once a close friend and political ally of Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, has resigned his elected posts and now seems most intent on clearing his name. He has admitted, though, to “poor judgment” and inappropriate behaviour during the course of his well-known relationship with the girl.