The coalition that comprises Iceland’s current government has become the fastest to collapse in the country’s history after a scandal involving pardons granted for convicted pedophiles shocked the nation.
It was discovered that Benedikt Sveinsson, a prominent businessman and father to the current prime minister of Iceland, played a key role in the pardoning of man who was convicted of raping his stepdaughter, which occurred on a near-daily basis for 12 years from the time she was 5-years-old until she escaped as a teenager and pressed charges.
Hjalti Sigurjón Hauksson was sentenced in 2004 to a mere five and a half years in prison, which stands as one of the longest sexual abuse sentences in Icelandic history.
“The details of the case are nothing short of horrifying,” reports Visir. “This summer the man was then granted a full pardon, despite the fact that there is no indication he has ever repented.”
“His victim has revealed in interviews that the man has continued to harass her and her family, among other things by approaching her six year old daughter while she was on a field trip with her school. The man was working as a school bus driver at the time.”
Icelandic law allows for criminals – no matter how heinous their offenses – to have their records and reputations effectively wiped clean if they seek “restored honour,” a legal process which requires obtaining at least three letters of recommendation to be considered by a governing body, among other factors and stipulations.
Hauksson, along with another convicted pedophile, was granted “restored honour” in a controversial decision by the Icelandic government this summer – and Icelanders were not happy.
News broke yesterday in Icelandic media that Sveinsson, one of the wealthiest men in the country, had signed off on a letter of recommendation for Hauksson, with whom he is reportedly friends.
Sveisson’s son, Bjarni Benediktsson, is the Prime Minister of Iceland, and head of its most powerful political party, the Independence Party.
It was also discovered that the prime minister has long been aware of his father’s involvement in the pardoning of Hjalti Hauksson, which has only served to fuel outrage amongst the country’s tiny population of only 330,000, where word travels quickly and political upheaval is commonplace.
“Initially the Ministry of Justice refused to disclose who had recommended Hjalti receive restored honour, but after concerted pressure – including a parliamentary committee ruling that the Ministry had gone beyond the bounds of the law to keep the information secret – the Ministry relented,” reports the Reykjavik Grapevine. “It was today revealed that Benedikt, who has long been a friend of Hjalti’s and reportedly visited him in prison, had provided a letter of recommendation for Hjalti.”
In response, the Bright Future party, which comprises the other half of the coalition government, announced their intention to sever ties with the Independence Party, citing a “serious breach of trust within the government,” which could precipitate the need for another parliamentary election less than a year after the last round of voting.
This is the third consecutive coalition government that has imploded with Independence Party at the helm, and concerns over corruption within the Icelandic political establishment have given rise to new factions, such as the rapidly-growing Pirate Party, who are calling for a five-party coalition government to supplant the one currently in place.