One of Norway's most important politicians was recently found guilty of forcing migrants desperate for asylum to engage in sexual acts, reports The New York Times. Svein Ludvigsen, the former fisheries minister and a regional governor, was found to have forced three young men to have sex with him. Despite the ruling, Ludvigsen maintains his innocence.
In testimony delivered at the trial, Ludvigsen's position allowed him to realistically scare the young men into thinking he had the ability to decide their asylum status. One of the men was 17 when they first met. Another allegedly suffers from a mild intellectual impairment. The abuse went on from between 2011 and 2017, when Ludvigsen was governor of Troms, a county north of the Arctic Circle where the four all resided.
The victims who testified explained how Ludvigsen had threatened them for sexual favors, claiming that he could deport them, or conversely help them acquire permanent residency in the Scandinavian country. They also testified that the abuse would take place in both Ludvigsen's home and country house, in hotel rooms, and even in his office.
According to BBC News, Ludvigsen confessed to to having sex with one of the men but claimed it was a consensual relationship. Nonetheless, the report noted that he had originally lied to police -- claiming there had been no such relationship -- when he was first questioned. Ludvigsen still maintains that he has never had sexual relations with the other two men.
The court reached the verdict on Wednesday, and announced the day after that the disgraced politician would be sentenced to five years in jail. In addition, he is required to pay restitution to his victims, who hail from Africa and Asia. The damages found amount 743,000 Norwegian kroner, or about $87,000.Though Ludvigsen was found guilty, he will likely not face any jail time for a while, as his lawyers have said that they will appeal the verdict. In Norwegian law, the prison term would not start until the appeal process is completed, thus meaning the 72-year-old might not see a jail cell until next year at the earliest, if at all.
However, the verdict is at least a first step for justice for those who were coerced into intercourse against their will.
"The verdict is important, and shows the vulnerability of young unaccompanied asylum seekers and refugees," said Ann-Magrit Austena, of the Norwegian Organization for Asylum Seekers.
Austena, who continued to call Ludvigsen's crimes a "violent breach of trust," also emphasized the difficulty migrants face, living in a pseudo-purgatory while their status is being processed.