From Iceland — Minister Hurried Police Interrogation On Her Own Initiative

Minister Hurried Police Interrogation On Her Own Initiative

Published November 13, 2014

Intends to remain in power, has Independence Party's and Prime Minister's support

Intends to remain in power, has Independence Party's and Prime Minister's support

Interviewed by RÚV’s Kastljós on Wednesday, Interior Minister Hanna Birna Kristjánsdóttir repudiated her earlier statements, when she claimed that her former assistant, Gísli Freyr, had requested her to intervene, when she asked the Police to hurry his interrogation, during the investigation that led to his trial.

Contradictory statements clarified

After the prosecution revealed and notified the defendant about new evidence against him, found this weekend, the defendant confessed, on Tuesday, and was found guilty on Wednesday, for leaking Ministry documents to the media, containing sensitive information and insubstantiated slander on an asylum seeker and his associates.

Gísli Freyr Valdórsson on Kastljós

On Tuesday, the former assistant, Gísli Freyr Valdórsson, told Kastljós that he had not requested the Minister to intervene in the investigation in that or any other manner. Since this contradicted the Minister’s earlier words, she was asked which one of the two had been speaking truthfully. The Minister replied that “there was nothing like that”, understood as meaning that the assistant did not ask her to intervene. She explained that she had felt sorry for the assistant, for having to wait five days to be interrogated, and that there was “nothing abnormal” about the Minister of the Interior asking the Policy to hurry their investigation under such circumstances.

Calls for resignation, votes of confidence

The case has rattled the Interior Ministry for a year, since November 2013. The Minister insists that she was not aware of the assistant’s actions until he confessed on Tuesday, upon which she immediately discharged him. On Wednesday, leaders of all parties in opposition called for the Minister’s resignation.

On Kastljós, the Minister replied that whereas she does bear political responsibility for her assistant’s conduct, she is not culpable for his criminal offences. She has conceded that she should have resigned from affairs relating to justice, at an earlier point, for example at the onset of the criminal investigation. On Wednesday, the Minister added that she has already resigned, referring to late August, the point at which matters relating to the Courts were transferred from the Interior Ministry to the Prime Ministry, due to this case, and allegations that the Ministier had interfered in the Police investigation. On Wednesday, the Minister concluded that she cannot resign repeatedly over the same case, will not resign from the Ministry on her own initiative, and inteds to stay in politics at least until the end of this term.

The Independence Party’s members of Alþingi have declared full confidence in Hanna Birna, as has Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlauggsson, saying on Wednesday that she is “in many ways a victim in this case, as well.”

The former assistant’s confession and subsequent guilty verdict does not fully conclude the case. Next week, the office of Alþingi’s Ombudsman is expected to deliver results of its investigation the Minister’s relations to and conduct towards the Police during the investigation.

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