Birkedal cleared over teen sex charges

Trond Birkedal, the 31-year-old former head of the Progress Party’s youth wing, was given a suspended 60-day jail sentence on Thursday for secretly filming naked boys, but was cleared of the most serious charge of having sexual relations with a 15-year-old boy.

Birkedal cleared over teen sex charges
Photo: Tommy Ellingsen/Scanpix

Stavanger district court was not able to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the prominent politician had a sexual encounter with a then 15-year-old boy at a hotel in Oslo in 2008.

He was also cleared over charges he had sexually abused another 15-year-old boy when he gave him a massage in 2007.

Birkedal confessed to the crimes for which he was convicted. These included secretly filming teenagers as they showered at his home, and several counts of getting teenage boys to perform sex acts in front of webcams.

Birkedal spent 20 days in custody after his arrest, while the court suspended the remaining 40 days of his sentence.

It was a relieved Birkedal who met the press outside a packed Stavanger court on Thursday afternoon.

“I sense the gravity as I stand here with the verdict in my hand. For the first time in my life I have been convicted of a criminal act. My thoughts go, as they have throughout this case, to those I have subjected to something, those who are the victims in this case,” he said.

“At the same time I think the circumstances where I didn’t do anything wrong were clarified very well in court. I’m not surprised, but I am of course very relieved to have been cleared of those.”

A rising star in the populist Progress Party before his spectacular fall from grace last year, Birkedal received some measure of sympathy from the judge, Bjørn Enoksen Ristesund, who said the politician’s fame had blown up the significance of the case out of all proportion.

“For a long time he has been exposed in a negative way. A picture has been sketched of him as a paedophile,” said the judge.  

Prosecutor Karsten Monsen said he would examine the ruling before deciding whether to lodge an appeal.

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Leader of Norwegian populist party to step down

Siv Jensen, the former finance minister and leader of the anti-immigration Progress Party, has announced she is to leave the role and quit parliament.

Leader of Norwegian populist party to step down
Siv Jensen. File photo: AFP

“I have today informed the nomination committee in the Oslo Progress Party that I do not wish to be re-elected to parliament,” she said at a press conference at the Storting parliament.

“As such, I have also notified the party’s election committee that this, naturally, means the party must select a new leader at its national conference in May,” she continued.

Norway is scheduled to hold general elections later this year.

“It has not been easy to take this choice. But I am completely convinced that it is the right choice for both the party and me,” she said.

Jensen has already given her blessing to Sylvi Listhaug, the hardline former immigration and integration, and later justice minister, as her successor. Listhaug is the current deputy leader of the right-wing party.

The outgoing leader also backed Ketil Solvik-Olsen, a former second deputy leader, as the next deputy leader.

“They are to outstanding politicians who dare to be innovative, clear, take on debates and challenge the existing truths,” Jensen said.

The former minister has been a member of parliament since 1997 and took over as Progress Party leader from Carl I. Hagen in 2006.

She was finance minister from 2013 until January 2020, when the Progress Party withdrew from the governing coalition.

Jensen said her party’s recent sluggish poll ratings were not rated to her decision to step back from politics.

“I have, in all my time as party leader, said that it is a job and lifestyle which demands 120 percent, 24 hours a day all year round,” she also said.