Iceland's Government Implodes Over Pedophile Scandal

Prime minister's father wrote letter in support of convicted child rapist
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 16, 2017 2:46 PM CDT
Iceland Prime Minister Resigns Over Pedophile Scandal
Bjarni Benediktsson of the?Independence Party gestures after the first results of last year's election in Reykjavik, Iceland.   (AP Photo/Frank Augstein, File)

The prime minister of Iceland is out after it was alleged he tried to hide the fact that his father was seeking to clear the name of a convicted pedophile, Deutsche Welle reports. According to the AP, Prime Minister Bjarni Benediktsson's government ended when his resignation was accepted by the country's president on Saturday—just nine months after it was formed following the resignation of the previous prime minister. A man named Hjalti Sigurjon Hauksson was sentenced to five years in prison in 2004 for repeatedly raping his stepdaughter starting when she was 5 and continuing for 12 years, the Guardian reports. An Icelandic law allows convicted criminals to "restore their honor" and regain some rights. One requirement of the law is a supportive letter from a close friend. Benedikt Sveinsson, father of Benediktsson, was that close friend for Hauksson.

Benediktsson allegedly learned of his father's letter in July—the prime minister says he was "in shock"—but the government didn't disclose it until this week when forced by a parliamentary committee. The Bright Future Party called the whole situation a "serious breach of trust" and pulled out of a coalition with Benediktsson's Independence Party and the Reform Party. Benediktsson had been relying on that center-right coalition to hold a one-seat majority in the government. "We have lost the majority, and I don't see anything that indicates we can regain that. I am calling an election," Benediktsson says. A snap election—Iceland's second in a year—will likely be held Nov. 4 to elect a new government. As his son's government crumbled, Sveinsson said he "would like to apologize to all those who have been hurt because of the matter.” (Read more Iceland stories.)

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