The controversy surrounding a former minister who was hired by the University of Iceland – and subsequently let go due to public protest – has featured prominently in the Icelandic media this past week.
Last week, former foreign minister Jón Baldvín Hannibalsson was hired by the University of Iceland to be a guest lecturer for a course in international politics. The decision was met with public criticism, most notably from Helga Þórey Jónsdóttir and Hildur Lilliendahl Viggósdóttir, who wrote a column reminding the public that about a year and a half ago, the magazine Nýtt Líf brought to light letters of strong sexual content that Jón Baldvín had written to Guðrún Harðardóttir, the daughter of his wife’s sister, who was between the ages of 14 and 17 at the time. Guðrún, speaking candidly to Nýtt Líf, described the letters as sexual harrassment, which she charged him with in 2005. The case was dropped on the grounds that the letters were written from overseas.
The public reaction to the hiring prompted president of the Social Sciences department Daði Már Kristófersson to say that the decision would be reviewed. Ultimately, the guest lecturer spot was withdrawn from Jón Baldvín.
Jón Baldvín criticised the university’s decision, likening those who criticised him to the Taliban, saying that the university has “allowed an extremist minority to pressure [the university] to sacrifice fundamental human rights”.
In the wake of the discussion, former Minister of the Interior Ögmundur Jónasson has rushed to Jón Baldvín’s defence, saying in part that “[the court system] was created so that sentences would never be passed based on anger or revenge but rather according to law,” and that the situation “revolves around fundamental rules in a just nation which we call a society of human rights.”
At the time of this writing, the university has not indicated that they would reverse their position on the matter.
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