Iceland PM Bjarni Benediktsson announces resignation over paedophile’s ‘restored honour’

By @chelean on
Iceland's Prime Minister Bjarni Benediktsson arrives at the Presidential residence in Bessastadir, Iceland September 16, 2017.
Iceland's Prime Minister Bjarni Benediktsson arrives at the Presidential residence in Bessastadir, Iceland September 16, 2017. Reuters/Geirix

The new prime minister of Iceland has resigned after it has emerged that his father tried to have a convicted paedophile’s honour restored. Prime Minister Bjarni Benediktsson assumed office in January but has now called for a new election after his party lost the majority.

The Bright Future party, one of the three in Benediktsson’s coalition government, has announced it was withdrawing due to a “breach of trust.” It has learnt from reports that Benediktsson tried to cover up allegations that his father, Benedikt Sveinsson, wrote a letter to help Hjalti Sigurjon Hauksson “restore his honour.”

Hauksson was convicted in 2004 of raping his stepdaughter for 12 years, from when she was just 5 years old. Under the country’s laws, a person who has served a sentence for serious crimes can apply to have their honour restored, which means their criminal record will be erased. This allows them to seek employment. The person needs a letter of recommendation by a person who can vouch for them. Hauksson has received full pardon.

According to reports, Benediktsson and some government members tried to keep the letter to clean Hauksson’s record from the general public. The PM was said to be aware of his father’s actions since July. The Ministry of Justice initially refused to disclose who recommended Hauksson to receive “restored honour,” but it relented last week.

On Sep. 14, Justice Minister Sigridur Anderson told reporters that she had informed Benediktsson of Sveinsson’s involvement in July. She told no one else. Both Benediktsson and Anderson hail from the Independence Party.

Sveinsson told the press that he did not actually write the letter and that Hauksson already wrote it and only asked for his signature. He said he saw restored honour as a means for criminals to integrate with the society again.

Upon learning of the alleged deception, Bright Future said on Friday that it was quitting, leaving the coalition it formed in January with the Independence Party and the Reform Party. With the coalition’s slim majority, Bright Future’s exit from the alliance meant Benediktsson was left without a majority.

“We have lost the majority, and I don’t see anything that indicates we can regain that,” the prime minister told reporters. He has then called for elections, which he hoped could be held as early as October.

This is not the first time Benediktsson was involved in a controversy. His name appeared in the Panama Papers in 2016 when he was then the finance minister. The Panama Papers controversy, which was millions of leaked documents that revealed offshore accounts of individuals, also claimed the political career of then-PM Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson.

Benediktsson was also revealed to have had registered on the adultery website Ashley Madison in 2015. His username was IceHot1. His wife, Thora Margret Baldvinsdottir, explained that they registered on the site together just purely out of curiosity.

Meanwhile, Hauksson’s victim told local paper Stundin (via the Grapevine) that Hauksson continues to harass her to this day through messages, phone calls and other means of contact. She said her abuser receiving restored honour has been “surreal.”

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