From Iceland — Day Of Memo Leak, Minister's Assistant Called Police Chief Twice

Day Of Memo Leak, Minister’s Assistant Called Police Chief Twice

Published November 19, 2014

Three telephone calls took place between Gísli Freyr Valdórsson, the Minister of the Interior’s assistant at the time, and Sigríður Björk Guðjónsdóttir, then Police Chief of Suðurnes, now Police Chief of Reykjavík, the day on which the former leaked the Ministry documents for which he has now been sentenced to prison, on probation. The leak, and the phone calls, took place on November 20, last year.

This was disclosed by DV on Tuesday. According to the report, the assistant called Haraldur Johannessen, Morgunblaðið’s co-editor and former National Commissioner of Police, in between the conversations with the Police Chief Sigríður.

The paragraph which Gísli added to the document before sharing it with the daily Fréttablaðið, cited “investigation material” which may seem to suggest information acquired from the Police. DV claims that the added paragraph had been removed again before Gísli shared the document with the other daily, mentioned above, Morgunblaðið.

Contradictory responses

On Tuesday, Gisli Freyr first responded to the report by claiming that he did not remember the topic of his discussions with the Chief of Police. He also said that he had called her, and not the other way around. Later on Tuesday he added decisively that he did remember that their topic was not the case of Tony Omos, the person about whom the leaked document was gathered.

The Police Chief was out of reach when DV first tried to contact her, explaining by email that she was “absolutely busy”. Tuesday afternoon, she released a statement about the phone calls, in which she said that Gísli Freyr had initiated contact with her that day, decisively to speak about Tony Omos. She said that he sought information about his case, but claims that nothing suggested that he intended to leak that information to the media.

After the appearance of those claims, Gísli Freyr changed his statement. He explained that, in the meantime, he had gone through his notebooks and refreshed his memory, and now remembered that they did speak about Tony Omos, and that the dialogue was on his initiative. According to information acquired by DV, however, the first phone call in the series was made by the Chief of Police at 8:52 that morning. Gísli then called back to the Police Chief’s personal phone number, twice, later that day.

The significance

What is at stake is the potential involvement of two high officials in Gísli’s offense, to which he confessed after, as it seems, the prosecution made him aware of conclusive evidence against him. First of all, when Gísli Freyr confessed to having leaked the document, last week, after denying it for almost a year, he still denied that Interior Minister Hanna Birna Kristjánsdóttir or anyone else had been aware of his action up to that point. DV’s information does not prove that the Chief of Police knew about Gísli’s offense and concealed it for a year, but it does provide such suspicions with some potential legitimacy.

Second, late last summer, Stefán Eiríksson, then Police Chief of Reykjavík, resigned from his office. He later explained to Alþingi’s Ombudsman that the Minister of the Interior had interfered in the Police investigation of the leak in several ways. The Minister appointed Sigríður Björk Guðjónsdóttir in Stefán’s place, without a prior call for applications. If the Chief of Police would turn out to have known about Gísli’s offense from the start, that would cast further doubt on the Minister’s steadfast denial of having ever been aware of her assistant’s conduct.

Tony Omos – backstory

Nigerian citizen Tony Omos applied for asylum in Iceland late 2011. When his application was rejected in 2013, supporters planned protests outside the Ministry of the Interior. That same day, November 20, 2013, Fréttablaðið and Morgunblaðið cited information and slander, based on hearsay, from the leaked Ministry document. Tabloid DV, however, investigated the leak, later picked up by Police authorities and the State Prosecutor.

When the Minister’s assistant, Gísli Freyr, confessed to the leak, he verified that his intention was to influence the media discussion about the asylum applicant.

Omos was deported, without notice, in the middle of the night in December 2013. He remains out of Iceland. The Ministry has not issued an apology to him.

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