Jón Baldvin Hannibalsson, former government minister and diplomat, has received a suspended sentence of two months’ imprisonment in a sexual harassment case related to an incident that took place at his home in Granada, Spain in 2018, Vísir reports. The Landsréttur Court of Appeals also ordered him to pay all court and appeal costs related to the case. Jón Baldvin’s defense attorney has said that an application will be made to the Supreme Court requesting the right to appeal the judgement.
The sexual harassment charges were first brought against Jón Baldvin in 2019, when Carmen Jóhannsdóttir accused him of having groped her buttocks during a dinner party in Granada the year before.
Resolution on the case was long delayed, however, in part because the Reykjavík District Court repeatedly dismissed it because the incident took place in Spain and was therefore not, the court contended, under its jurisdiction. The Court of Appeals overturned this dismissal on technical grounds: over four weeks had passed between the oral presentation of the call to stop the case and the court’s decision to throw the case out. As such, the District Court was forced to reopen the case.
Competing witness testimony also came into play. Carmen’s mother, Laufey Ósk Arnorsdóttir, was also in attendance at the party in 2018 and testified that she witnessed Jón Baldvin groping her daughter. The District Court rejected Laufey’s testimony, saying it did not correspond to Carmen’s version of events. Instead, it accepted the testimony of Jón Baldvin’s wife Bryndís Schram and a neighbor, who corroborated his version of events. The Reykjavík District Court finally ruled on the case in August 2021 and Jón Baldvin was acquitted of the charges.
The case was then taken up again by the Court of Appeals, with the District Attorney seeking a suspended sentence of two to three months for Jón Baldvin. Carmen Jóhannsdóttir also sought damages totaling ISK one million [$7,086; €6,725]. Carmen’s claim for damages was rejected, but the Court of Appeals granted the DA’s suspended sentence of two months.
In its decision, the Court of Appeals stated that Carmen’s account of the incident was credible, and was, in fact, supported by that of her mother. It was the Court’s opinion that these testimonies outweighed Jón Baldvin’s denial.
A long history of accusations
Jón Baldvin Hannibalsson was an MP for the Social Democratic Party, serving as Minister of Finance from 1987 to 1988 and Foreign Affairs Minister from 1988 to 1995. Following his time in parliament, he served as a diplomat, first to the US and Mexico from 1998 to 2002, and then to the Baltics from 2002 to 2005.
He has faced repeated accusations of sexual harassment and impropriety throughout his career, dating all the way back to 1967 when he was a teacher at an elementary school. In 2012, it was revealed that Jón Baldvin had sent his wife’s niece Guðrún Harðardóttir sexually explicit letters starting when she was 14 years old. Jón Baldvin denied that he sexually harassed Guðrún, but apologised for what he called a “lapse of judgement” in initiating the correspondence. Guðrún attempted to press charges against Jón Baldvin, but police dropped the case.
In 2013, Jón Baldvin was invited to be a guest lecturer at the University of Iceland. When objections ensued, the university withdrew the invitation. Jón Baldvin protested the decision and threatened to take legal action, upon which the university agreed to pay him ISK 500,000 [$3,542; €3,361] in compensation and publicly apologised for how they handled the matter.
In 2019, Stundin published interviews with four women, including Carmen Jóhannsdóttir, in which each described incidents of sexual harassment by Jón Baldvin. A Facebook group called #metoo Jón Baldvin Hannibalsson was formed around the same time, and at least 12 women used the platform to share accounts of sexual harassment at the hands of the former politician.
In the face of all these incidents, however, Jón Baldvin has maintained his utmost innocence. He called Carmen’s charge “pure fabrication” and stated it was part of “a coordinated attack on my reputation.”
‘It hasn’t been an easy journey, but today, it all became worth it’
Carmen was abroad at the time that the Court of Appeals published its decision, but she spoke to reporters after she’d had some time to process the news. “This is very much a cause for celebration,” she said. “I know it’s not a heavy sentence, but it’s just the fact that he’s been sentenced at all. I didn’t expect it, to be perfectly honest, but I’m really happy about it.”
“It’s been a long process and of course, there’s already been one ruling on it. But I have to say that I’m really happy about this. I’m happy about this victory—not just for me, but also for everyone who’s been subjected to abuse at the hands of Jón Baldvin.”
“Hopefully, this will set a precedent for other judges and lawyers,” continued Carmen. “And also just for people who haven’t had the desire or ability to claim their rights—that it’s worth it, even if it’s hard. I’ll absolutely admit that it hasn’t been an easy journey, but today, it all became worth it.”