Icelandic state radio RÚV and Morgunbladid are reporting that Hannes Hólmsteinn Gissurarson, professor of Political Science at the University of Iceland, and well-known friend of former Prime Minister Davíd Oddsson, was found guilty of libel at the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court of Justice in the United Kingdom.
The libel charges arose from a claim Gissurarson made on his University of Iceland website, which implied that Jón Ólafsson, a prominent Icelandic businessman and former owner of Stöd 2 television station, may have been involved in the drug business.
Ólafsson, who is an Icelandic citizen but a resident of the UK, sued Gissurarson. The court found that Ólafsson had suffered damage from the “completely untrue” claims. Gissurarson has been ordered to pay Ólafsson the equivalent of 12,000,000 ISK / 200,000 USD in damages.
The ruling has caused much discussion in Iceland. UK libel laws are much harsher than Icelandic ones, and some have questioned whether Icelanders should be able to be sued anywhere for something they wrote in Iceland for an Icelandic web page. Supporters of Ólafsson point out that the comments in this case had been written in English, and that Ólafsson resides in the UK, where the damage was done.