From Iceland — Defence Attorney: Facebook "Likes" Constitute Bias

Defence Attorney: Facebook “Likes” Constitute Bias

Published October 1, 2014

Andie Sophia Fontaine
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A lawyer defending former Interior Minister assistant Gísli Freyr Valdórsson has asked the court to remove the prosecutor for “Liking” a news story pertaining to the trial.

Gísli Freyr Valdórsson, a former assistant to Minister of the Interior Hanna Birna Kristjánsdóttir, was charged with breach of confidentiality and relieved of his position last August. He is now on trial in Reykjavík District Court and today, RÚV reports, the defence has offered a unique argument as to why the prosecutor, Helgi Magnús Gunnarsson, is unfit to participate in the trial.

Ólafur Garðarsson, Gísli Freyr’s defence attorney, argued in court today that Helgi had put a “Like” on a Facebook post linking to a Kjarninn news story by editor Þórður Snær Júlíusson about the case. This, Ólafur argued, constituted a prejudicial statement and proved the prosecutor should recuse himself from the case.

The presiding judge asked Ólafur whether he was implying that Helgi could not be on Facebook at all. Ólafur said this was not his meaning. Rather, he said that he had received a response from Facebook as to what a Like means. It is a form of expression, he argued, and the prosecutor – in Liking an article that was unfavourable towards Gísli Freyr – had proven himself biased.

As reported, the evidence against Gísli Freyr is damning. According to police investigations, a Ministry employee named simply “B” (later confirmed to be Gísli Freyr), 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. These accusations would later prove false or misleading.

Gísli Freyr maintains that he is innocent of the charges against him.

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