Norway Politician Forced Sex on Asylum Seekers, Court Finds

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One of Norway’s most prominent politicians has been convicted of abusing his power to force three young men seeking asylum in the country to have sex with him.

Svein Ludvigsen, a former fisheries minister and a regional governor, was sentenced to five years in prison for exploiting the men’s vulnerability and compelling them to have sex.

Over the course of the trial, the court heard testimony that Mr. Ludvigsen, 72, gave the men the false impression that as governor of the district of Troms he had the power to decide people’s asylum status.

The court reached its decision on Wednesday and announced it on Thursday.

The abuse of the three men took place between 2011 and 2017. One of them said he was 17 when he first met Mr. Ludvigsen. Another said he had an intellectual impairment.

The victims, now in their 20s and 30s, told the court that Mr. Ludvigsen had convinced them that he could either deport them or secure their permanent residency in Norway, depending on how they responded to his demands for sex.

Human rights groups said the abuse exposed at the trial represents an extreme example of a wider problem of mistreatment of newcomers in Norway, a country that promotes its credentials as a world leader in human rights.

Asylum seekers are often left in limbo while they await decisions on their cases. Their advocates said they hoped the trial raised greater awareness of their plight.

“The verdict is important, and shows the vulnerability of young unaccompanied asylum seekers and refugees,” said Ann-Magrit Austena, general secretary of the Norwegian Organization for Asylum Seekers. She called Mr. Ludvigsen’s actions a “violent breach of trust.”

Mr. Ludvigsen was the fisheries minister in a center-right government from 2001 to 2005 and served as the appointed governor of Troms, in Norway’s far north, from 2006 until he retired from politics in 2014.

The court also ordered Mr. Ludvigsen to pay his victims, who came from countries in Asia and Africa, damages totaling 743,000 Norwegian kroner, or about $87,000.

Mr. Ludvigsen’s lawyer, Kai Vaag, said his client would appeal the conviction. His prison term would not start until the appeal process is completed, which is not expected until the end of the year at the earliest.

Ole Magnus Strommen, a lawyer representing one of the victims, said his client was pleased that the court believed his story in the face of denials from such a senior public figure.