Iceland is usually in the news for weird stuff, like government stances on pizza toppings or its highway construction getting derailed by elves. But the scandal emerging paints a much darker and uglier picture.
Imagine this, for a moment: The Koch Brothers had decided that Jared Fogle had done enough time, and written two letters they took to Mike Pence. Pence agrees, got the Senate Judiciary Committee to rule Fogle really was forgiven for molesting children, and then Donald Trump signed off on it. And they all agreed to do this in secret, and cover it up.
Obviously, that hasn’t happened in the U.S., but it’s, more or less, exactly what’s happening in Iceland.
Specifically, Hjalti Sigurjón Hauksson requested to have his “honor restored.” Pardons, in Iceland, are different from those in the US: You need two letters of recommendation from prominent citizens, first, before the application is approved by the Minister of the Interior. Then a committee from Iceland’s Parliament has to approve it, and finally, it goes straight to the prime minister, who has to sign off on it.
If you get through the process, certain civil rights are returned, like the ability to run for office or practice law. It’s also symbolic, in that it indicates the nation, which is just 334,000 people, has forgiven the crime.
Hauksson, however, is decidedly not forgiven by the community. In 2004, he was convicted of having raped his stepdaughter almost daily for the previous twelve years. At the time, it was one of the most horrendous crimes the island nation had ever seen, and the idea of Hauksson having his “honor” restored seemed laughable.
Except, it happened in August. As a result, Icelandic journalists have been fighting to force the government to reveal who, precisely, would write a letter asking such a monstrous criminal to be pardoned, since the letters and their writers aren’t usually disclosed to the public. The answer, among others, was Benedikt Sveinsson, the father of Prime Minister Bjarni Benediktsson and one of Iceland’s wealthiest citizens. It looks, quite a bit, like Iceland’s most notorious pedophile worked some connections and got a pardon.
Icelanders were furious, and the fallout has been swift. The government has officially collapsed; the already fragile coalition keeping it together fell apart at midnight last night as the socially liberal Bright Future party withdrew, and allegations are already flying that nearly the entirety of Iceland’s conservative political apparatus were aware that this was happening, or were actively involved in it.
This also means that Iceland will need to hold elections as soon as possible, right in the middle of the tiny nation struggling to figure out its economic future. And the question lingers: If the government was working to secretly help a pedophile, who else might have enjoyed “restored honor” they didn’t deserve?