From Iceland — Post-Leak Hangover

Post-Leak Hangover

Published November 24, 2014

Monday is back with a vengeance -- Debates on Monday #11

Haukur Már Helgason
Photo by
Páll Ivan frá Eiðum

Monday is back with a vengeance -- Debates on Monday #11

The Debates on Monday

Infamously, on November 20th, 2013, Fréttablaðið and published news based on confidential information collected within the Ministry of the Interior.

November 21st, 2013, DV points this out, and asks: who leaked an internal ministry document about an asylum seeker as it seemed intentionally to harm his reputation? A year of “not me”s ensued. Long story short:

November 21st 2014, last Friday, Hanna Birna Kristjánsdóttir resigned from her post as Minister of the Interior.

There might be some minor earthquakes to come. It seems — well, no, it is quite clear — that for a year Police Chief Sigríður Björk Guðjónsdóttir retained relevant information about the case from the police: namely, that, according to telephone records and now her own admission, on November 20th 2013, the Minister’s assistant, Gísli Freyr Valdórsson, called the Police Chief twice, to speak about Tony Omos, the asylum seeker. When police seized Gísli’s computer for investigation, he had already deleted emails that verifiably went between him and Sigríður Björk. It seems to be clear that the correspondence had to do with Tony Omos, but their exact content is lost in a digital dustbin.

A year later, earlier this month, Gísli confessed to having leaked the documents, and was consequently sentenced to eight months in prison, on probation. The claims he added to the document before forwarding it to Fréttablaðið may have originated within the police. Sigríður Björk claims that she had no idea that Gísli would leak, or had leaked, any information she provided him with, to the media, implying that no such thing occurred to her for an entire year— through the charges levied against Gísli and his prosecution, up to his confession and subsequent prison sentence. She says that she has a spotless career, and that journalists just want to take her down.

A highly amusing correlation

A year ago, Sigríður Björk Guðjónsdóttir was Chief of Police in the Reykjanes district. Now she is the Chief of Police in Reykjavík. She was assigned that post by now-former Minister Hanna Birna, without a preceding call for applications, after the now former Police Chief Stefán Eiríksson resigned. Stefán has since testified that Hanna Birna interfered in the police investigation of the ministry leak, not least when it focused on Gísli Freyr, the culprit. The plot chickens, Dickens.

In other words, there seem to be reasonable grounds to suspect that the former Minister and/or her childhood friend, the Police Chief, knew or should have known, for a year or so, who leaked the ministry documents. Some suspect that either or both were directly involved. Either way, it would mean that the Police Chief covered up serious misconduct for a friend, which apparently would constitute an attempt to mislead a police investigation. The Police Chief certainly received no small favour from that same friend friend, around that same time. Those who harbour suspicions about all this maintain that there will be no real closure in the case before the whole truth is revealed.

Still. The biggest eruption in this series is probably past. The Minister resigned. That is pretty rare.

Guns and stuff

Even if everyone now agrees that the Minister’s resignation had become necessary — literally everyone, since Morgunblaðið doesn’t count — this is what came closest to being a matter of debate during the last week. Outside the realm of debates, the Coast Guard has declared that they will return the recently acquired machine guns to Norway. Everyone, at least everyone who voices his or her opinion publicly, seems happy about this, so there appears to be little left to dispute there. The volcano keeps volcanoing, but we all know better than argue with magma. Any critique from the opposition, at the recently introduced mega-transaction from the Treasury to homeowners, seems to have been silenced when journalists asked members of the opposition if they themselves had applied for the homeowners’ benefits, known as The Correction, and whether they expect to get some. Evidently many did and do, which probably means that they will. Finally, this weekend, a Progressive Party representative said something stupid and racist on Facebook, but then she claimed it was a joke — so even if it wasn’t, that dispute stays largely latent.

The forecast

Speaking of which: near the end of last week, the Progressive Party had a meeting at which Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð gave a speech. He said that everything looks brighter since he came to power. He also said that “enormous opportunities await us,” and that “Iceland is a great country, the Icelandic nation is a great nation and if it seizes opportunities and believes in itself and that Iceland’s future can be even better, it will be.”

This might give birth to a theological debate, but probably will not.

A few hours before the Minister of the Interior resigned, that very same day, Björn Ingi Hrafnsson, proprietor of Vefpressan media, announced that he was heading a group which had bought DV, and that he would from now on be titled its publisher. Björn Ingi has taken part in politics, as a candidate and Reykjavík city councilperson for the Progressive Party. A poll conducted in my solitude last night suggests that the majority of readers perceive Björn Ingi’s dabbling in media affairs as a mere continuation of politics by other means. He himself might disagree, but probably only on the surface.

All in all, the next week’s debates are surrounded by enormous uncertainties.

Tony Omos, kicked out of the country shortly after the criminal ministry leak, remains out of the country. No more deportations.

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