The trial of former Prime Minister of Iceland Geir H. Haarde continued at the High Court (Landsdómur) today where his demand for dismissal will be discussed. The case is covered in an extensive article in the New York Times today.
Haarde addresses his supporters. Photo by Geir Ólafsson.
“The desire for justice and retribution is deep and complicated, and Iceland has taken an unusual step in the strange annals of the world financial crisis: it is pursuing criminal charges against a politician, former Prime Minister Geir Haarde, for his government’s failure to avert the catastrophe,” the article says.
“The formal indictment against Mr. Haarde, delivered by a sharply divided Parliament, charges him with ‘violations committed from February 2008 through the beginning of October of the same year, by intent or gross neglect, mostly violations against the laws of ministerial responsibility.’ He showed, it continues, ‘serious nonfeasance of his duties as prime minister in the face of major danger looming over Icelandic financial institutions and the state treasury.’”
“Mr. Haarde’s lawyers will argue that the case should be dismissed on numerous procedural grounds, including that the charges have never been properly investigated and that the indictment is too vague to meet legal standards.”
“Mr. Haarde, 60, said he had committed no crime, that the events that led to the crash were far too complicated to be distilled to a crude political prosecution of a single person, and that he was certain that he would be vindicated. ‘With hindsight, it’s hard to disagree that we could have done some things differently. But this is a political trial cloaked as a criminal prosecution. My political enemies are trying to go after and punish me and my party,’” he told the New York Times.
The article goes on to say: “If any politician is more culpable than others, many people believe it is David Oddsson, Mr. Haarde’s old friend and mentor, who was prime minister from 1991 to 2004. During his tenure, Iceland privatized its banks and liberalized the banking laws, paving the way for a brief period of prosperity and the banks’ risky and ultimately self-destructive behavior.”
“After Mr. Oddsson left politics, he became chairman of the Icelandic Central Bank, in charge of overseeing the system he had helped create. He was forced out of that job in 2009 and is now editor in chief of Morgunbladid, one of Iceland’s largest newspapers and a champion of the Independence Party. ‘He is the king, and we are sort of hanging the prince,’ said Eirikur Bergmann, director of the Center for European Studies at Bifrost University in Iceland.”
The High Court will now take up to four weeks to decide whether the charges against Haarde should be dismissed, ruv.is reports.