Pae­dophile brought down a PM

An in­flu­ence scan­dal ends the Iceland Govt

The New Zealand Herald - - WORLD - Amanda Erick­son — Wash­ing­ton Post

In 2004, Hjalti Sig­ur­jon Hauks­son was im­pris­oned for rap­ing his step­daugh­ter nearly every day for 12 years, start­ing when she was just 5. Thir­teen years later, his crime has helped bring down Iceland’s Gov­ern­ment.

The story in­volves Prime Min­is­ter Bjarni Benedik­ts­son and his fa­ther, Benedikt Sveins­son.

Sev­eral months ago, Sveins­son drafted a let­ter of rec­om­men­da­tion for Hauks­son, ar­gu­ing he should have his “hon­our re­stored”. In Iceland, con­victs can have cer­tain civil rights re­turned by sub­mit­ting let­ters of rec­om­men­da­tion show­ing good char­ac­ter. Hauks­son and an­other con­victed pae­dophile, Robert Downey (for­merly Robert Arni Hrei­dars­son), re­ceived full par­dons.

Those de­ci­sions “rat­tled Ice­landic so­ci­ety,” ac­cord­ing to Iceland Magazine. One of Downey’s vic­tims launched a cam­paign urg­ing the Gov­ern­ment to re­lease the let­ters of sup­port for Downey and Hauks­son. But the Jus­tice Min­istry re­fused to re­spond to ques­tions on the sub­ject. Last week, a par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee ruled that the Ad­min­is­tra­tion was vi­o­lat­ing free­dom of in­for­ma­tion laws by keep­ing the names a se­cret. So the let­ters were re­leased. On Fri­day, Iceland’s Jus­tice Min­is­ter, Si­gridur An­der­sen, said she had in­formed the Prime Min­is­ter of his fa­ther’s in­volve­ment back in June. She said she told no one else. That dis­clo­sure smacked of a cover-up and threat­ened the frag­ile three-party coali­tion that put Benedik­ts­son in power last year.

To se­cure a ma­jor­ity, his In­de­pen­dence Party joined forces with the cen­trists and the Bright Fu­ture coali­tion, squeak­ing in with 32 out of 63 seats. On Saturday, Bright Fu­ture voted to leave the Gov­ern­ment.

Benedik­ts­son, left with­out a ma­jor­ity, called his be­hav­iour a “se­ri­ous breach of trust” and dis­solved his Gov­ern­ment. He has called for speedy elec­tions.

Benedik­ts­son’s fa­ther apol­o­gised for sign­ing the let­ter of sup­port for his old friend. “I have never con­sid­ered the re­stored hon­our as any­thing ex­cept a le­gal pro­ce­dure mak­ing it pos­si­ble for con­victed crim­i­nals to re­gain some civil rights,” Sveins­son said. “I did not think of it as some­thing that would jus­tify Hjalti’s po­si­tion to­ward his vic­tim. I told Hjalti to face his ac­tion and to re­pent.”

Hauks­son’s vic­tim called the sit­u­a­tion sur­real. She said Hauks­son still ha­rasses her.

Pic­ture / AP

Peo­ple gather on the Na­tional Mall in Wash­ing­ton to at­tend a rally in sup­port of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

Bjarni Benedik­ts­son

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