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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Jailed cop’s release sparks debate

Questions have been raised this week over how a police officer who was sentenced to 21 years in jail for corruption could suddenly be released, at least temporarily, because he was “unfit for imprisonment.” Speculation is flying that Eirik Jensen now may be pardoned for health reasons.

Former top cop Eirik Jensen was such a well-known police officer in Oslo that he wrote a book about his life “inside” the Norwegian police. He ended up fighting for his career in court and lost badly, after being sentenced to 21 years in prison for corruption. PHOTO: Kagge Forlag

Criminology experts stress that it’s highly unusual for convicted criminals to be released until they’ve served at least half their sentence. Jensen, formerly a highly respected officer and investigator for the Oslo Police, was first arrested in February 2014 and charged with corruption and for contributing to imports of hash in return for money.

He vigorously denied the charges, claiming his actions were simply tied to investigations into criminal drug rings, but he was ultimately sentenced to Norway’s longest prison term in September 2017. He lost a lengthy appeals round that ended in November 2020 after the Supreme Court had refused to take up his case and he ultimately was sentenced to Norway’s longest prison term.

This week, however, Jensen was suddenly released from the prison in Kongsvinger where he’d been serving his time. Penal authorities themselves declared that Jensen was soningsudyktig, or unfit to serve because of serious health problems. Jensen’s defense attorney, John Christian Elden, seemed to take credit for his now-59-year-old client’s release.

“We have been working since last summer to get him out of jail,” Elden told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “He’ll stay at home and otherwise try to become healthy again in the best possible way.” Jensen’s partner, Ragna Lise Vikre, told newspaper Aftenposten that he simply “hasn’t tolerated sitting inside” and that it will “now be an important job for me to help get him back on his feet, both mentally and physically.”

Dr Pål Grøndahl, who holds a doctorate in forensic psychiatry, confirmed to NRK that it’s highly unusual to be released from prison for health reasons. “There are many in jail who are struggling, so it takes a lot” to win a reprieve, Grøndahl said. “You must have fallen mentally or physically, for example if a convict becomes psychotic, is seriously depressed or bedridden.”

He admitted that prisoners can trick authorities and court-appointed psychiatrists, “but in such a major case as this one (which attracted widespread media coverage in Norway for years), it would take even more to be declared unfit for serving time.”

Jensen’s health will be subject to re-evaluation and if his release doesn’t help improve his health, he can apply for a pardon that can only be granted by the government in consultation with the monarch at a weekly Council of State. That’s what happened in the case of convicted spy Arne Treholt, a former diplomat who was convicted after a sensational trial and pardoned in 1992, seven years after he’d been sentenced to 20 years in prison. He maintained his innocence until he died in Moscow last month.

Elden defended the practice, tying it to “a concrete evaluation” of a prisoner’s health. “We have a legal system that says sick people can’t sit in prison,” he told NRK.

Jensen himself was said to be “glad and relieved” that prison officials had determined he could be released. His partner said he had lost lots of weight in prison “and is simply very reduced, both physically and mentally.” She said he earlier has been admitted to the Akershus University Hospital (Ahus) because of poor health, and that she’d been very worried about him. Jensen maintains that he was wrongly convicted.

NewsinEnglish.no/Nina Berglund

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