As could be expected, there has been hefty debate in Iceland following the trial of ex-PM Geir Haarde. Haarde and many others from his party, the Independence Party, say the trial was a game of politics and have accused the High Court judges of having succumbed to political pressure. A former High Court judge says these allegations are preposterous. Four of the five High Court judges who were on the case ruled in favour of sentencing Haarde, with no punishment, for being in breach of the Constitution. One judge was against.
The trial is part of a process that was set in motion after the collapse of the Icelandic banks in October 2008 to clarify what had happened and how. The SIC report pointed at the role of politicians – but in the end, the Icelandic Althing voted on sending only Haarde on trial. Most people thought that former Minister of Finance Arni Matthiesen, former Minister of Banking Bjorgvin Sigurdsson and former Minister of Foreign Affairs and leader of the Social Democrats (in coalition with the Independence Party at the time) should also have been put on trial. Quite surprisingly, some MPs changed that course of events and in the end only Haarde was charged.
The ruling on Monday made news all over the world. This was also debated on al Jazeera’s Inside Story, where I was on the panel. One of the points I made was that although not saying that Iceland is a leading example in handling its crisis, there has at least been some efforts made to explain and clarify. Losing main banks – or saving them as others have done – is not a natural catastrophe like an earthquake or a volcanic eruption but happens slowly slowly due to human actions.
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