Interior Minister May Have To Answer For Her Assistant's Actions

Interior Minister May Have To Answer For Her Assistant’s Actions

Published August 17, 2014

Andie Sophia Fontaine
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By law, the Minister of the Interior may be held responsible for the memo the State Prosecutor says one of her assistants leaked to the press.

As reported, Gísli Freyr Valdórsson, an assistant to Minister of the Interior Hanna Birna Kristjánsdóttir, has been charged with breach of confidentiality. He is alleged to have doctored a memo of false allegations about Nigerian asylum seeker Tony Omos and leaked it to select members of the press last November.

While the Minister has summarily fired Gísli, she could also be found legally liable for his actions. As per Article 7 of the Law on Ministerial Responsibility, which states in part: “A minister … will also be held responsible for the actions of their subordinates.”

The Minister has also sent a formal request to Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson that “those matters under my jurisdiction regarding the courts and law enforcement be moved under another minister while Gísli Freyr’s trial proceeds.” As matters regarding the courts and law enforcement comprise the vast majority of what the Interior Minister contends with as a part of their duties, the request has struck some observers as highly unorthodox and unprecedented.

“This is actually a very unusual case, that such important sectors would be moved [to another minister] for an undetermined amount of time,” Björg Thorarensen, a professor of law who specialises in constitutional rights, told Vísir. “I know of no examples of such extensive sectors being moved from one minister to another.”

As reported, police investigations of the mobile phone use of five Ministry employees and the laptop use of two of them were thoroughly examined. The Supreme Court ruling on the matter alleges that, according to investigations, the computer and mobile phone use of one Ministry employee — referred to simply as “B” — raised many suspicions.

DV initially, and erroneously, reported that Þórey was the suspect in question; in truth, RÚV and DV confirmed on June 20 that Gísli Freyr is “B” (“DV biður Þóreyju afsökunar,” RÚV and “Gísli Freyr einnig með réttarstöðu grunaðs manns,” DV).

According to investigations, “B” reportedly searched for the memo in question on their computer on the evening of November 19, at 18:46 and 22:20. Police found that when the computer was turned off that evening, the notice “Do you want to save changes you made to [A],” referring to the memo, popped up on the screen.

At 18:40 and 22:43 that same evening, B phoned an employee of the news outlet Vísir, and called again an additional three times that same evening. B then allegedly called newspaper Morgunblaðið the following morning. Hours later, published their story, referring to an Interior Ministry document, and Fréttablaðið made the accusations against Tony Omos front-page news on November 20.

It should also be noted that the Tony Omos memo was written by a lawyer working in the Ministry of the Interior, at the behest of the ministry’s office manager, Ragnhildur Hjaltadóttir, on November 19. This memo was then sent from Ragnhildur to Hanna Birna and her two assistants, Þórey Vilhjálmsdóttir and Gísli Freyr Valdórsson. All of them had access to the memo in question.

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