(ANTIMEDIA) — Iceland’s justice system has received praise in recent years for its successful prosecution of multiple bankers who helped bring on the 2008 financial crisis. Though some of those bankers have been released early from prison, the latest controversy in the country stems from an entirely different miscarriage of justice.
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Last week, it emerged that Prime Minister Bjarni Benediktsson knew of attempts by his father, Benedikt Sveinsson, to have the Ministry of Justice grant “restored honor” to a convicted child rapist. Benediktsson kept this secret as the rapist, a friend of his father’s was essentially exonerated.
Restored honor is the controversial process by which convicted criminals can have their crimes expunged and return to society with all rights and privileges restored. It requires that the convicted person serve between two to five years of their sentence on their best behavior and that they have multiple letters of recommendation. Sveinsson provided one such letter.
The Reykjavik Grapevine, an English-language Icelandic outlet, reported on the recent case of “restored honor” on Thursday:
“This information was kept hidden from the general public, despite repeated requests from the media, until a parliamentary committee ruled that the Ministry of Justice was legally obliged to disclose this information. The Prime Minister was aware of his father’s actions since at least last July, but said nothing.”
In 2004, Hjalti Sigurjón Hauksson was convicted of raping his step-daughter almost daily for twelve years from the time she was five years old. Citing Stundin, another Icelandic outlet, the Grapevine summarized that Hauksson was granted restored honor last August.
The Ministry of Justice initially refused to disclose who had provided the letter of recommendation for the convicted rapist, but after a parliamentary committee pushed for full disclosure, the ministry revealed Sveinsson was responsible. However, after news of the secretive arrangement emerged last week, the prime minister’s father claimed Hauksson had penned the letter and asked him to sign it, also asserting he believes Hauksson is sorry for his crimes.
Hauksson’s victim called the decision to restore his honor “surreal.”
Exacerbating the controversy is the fact that Prime Minister Benediktsson reportedly knew about the letter to restore the rapist’s honor as far back as July of last year and said nothing. Further, the prime minister and the minister of justice, Sigríður Andersen, are members of the same political party — the Independence Party.
This scandal has reportedly brought down the government. The Guardian noted that “The Bright Future party said on its Facebook page that it had ‘decided to terminate cooperation with the government,’ effectively bringing down Bjarni Benediktsson’s administration barely nine months after it was formed.”
The Bright Future Party is one of three main parties, and their decision to break with the government will usher in the second “snap election” in a year. The Reform Party, the third major party, has also withdrawn support for the government, advocating a new vote.
According to the Grapevine, the incident has outraged not just the major political parties, but smaller ones, as well as the Icelandic public:
“The Icelandic public has been in an uproar over the matter, and the opposition parties are gearing up to push back. Pirate Party MP Gunnar Hrafn Jónsson spoke with Grapevine on the matter, saying, ‘The opposition, and certainly the Pirate Party, will take this matter forward with great urgency. The nation is outraged and demands it.’”
This is not the first time a rapist has been granted restored honor in Iceland, and it aligns with similar instances in other countries where pedophiles have evaded accountability for their abuses with the help of people in power.