Jun 30 2010
1 Comment

Iceland’s Post-Collapse Trial

Iceland’s first post-collapse trial continued yesterday. Nine participants of the ‘Cutlery Uprising’ face charges of ‘endangering the autonomy of parliament.’

In relation to the events surrounding Iceland’s economic collapse of 2008, nine Icelandic citizens stood in court yesterday. Each face up to sixteen years imprisonment. Yet they weren’t the politicians, bankers and businessmen who landed the country with a crippling €50 billion debt. Quite the opposite, actually.

The Reykjavik Nine (RVK9) are a gaggle of Icelanders who legally entered their Parliament to demand their politicians resign; one month and half before their government stood down. They each face charges of endangering parliament’s ‘autonomy’.

In April this year a parliamentary report was published which singled out the ‘gross negligence’ of seven high-power individuals responsible for crippling the islands economy. Said Johanna Sigurdardottir, the countries new prime minister, ‘The private banks failed, the supervisory system failed, the politics failed, the administration failed, the media failed, and the ideology of an unregulated free market utterly failed.’

Ironically, the counter-establishment protesters are the ones who have been charged.

The nine were amongst about thirty who were allowed rightful entry to the Althingi (Iceland’s Parliament), on 8 December 2008. They were part of a popular movement of thousands who regularly poured onto the streets in response to the economic collapse, in the winter of 2008-9. Some had planned to read a prepared statement to the parliamentarians from the visitors gallery; others had just tagged along. ‘We were not armed, of course, and we did not have our fists raised and we did not have any signs or anything that could be used as a potential weapon; we were not yelling or using abusive language; nothing like that,’ claims Solveig Jonsdottir, one of the charged nine.

Yet once inside, the parliamentary guards changed tact and attempted to forcefully block the protester’s passage to the gallery. Scuffles occurred which lead to a handful of minor injuries, the most serious of which being a guard’s sprained finger, shown by CCTV footage to be the offence of another guard. Two protestors managed to reach the parliamentary balcony, exclaiming, before being removed: ‘Get out! Get the hell out! This house no longer serves its purpose!’

In total, the soon to be dissolved House lost a single hour of session. For this a charge dating back to 1940 has been rolled in, penalising ‘Anyone who attacks Parliament so that its autonomy is endangered, conveys a message to that affect, or obeys such a message,’ with one year to a lifetime sentence. (sixteen years)

Many see these charges as politically motivated. Although the previous government was forced to stand down by this so called ‘Cutlery Uprising’, much of the discredited establishment remains. For example, the chairman of the central bank, a former long-serving prime minister, David Oddson, had resigned from his position after his ‘extreme negligence’; yet he simply moved on to become the co-editor of Iceland’s largest newspaper, Morgunbladid.

This might help explain why the RVK9 receive little sympathy in the ink of the island’s press. Though Iceland might now lead the world in its legislated protection of investigative journalists, Iceland’s foremost human-rights lawyer, Ragnar Adalsteinsson, claims that its own media has left no chance that the RVK9 may receive a fair trial.

‘We are examples,’ says Ragnheidur Esther, one of the accused. Since its 2008 emergency IMF loan there is a pressure on Iceland to put its ‘cutlery’ away. Nevertheless, over seven-hundred other participants of the uprising have signed a letter demanding that charges be dropped against the nine, or that ‘they also be charged for “attacking” the parliament.’ Says the letter organiser Bryndis Bjorgvinsdottir, ‘they were loud, they disrupted it – but did not use violence – just like the Reykjavik Nine.’

Due to summer holidays, the Reykjavik Nine’s court proceedings are expected to draw on till winter, with the next session scheduled for August 17th.

— — —

See Saving Iceland’s Reykjavik Nine solidarity declaration.

See the Reykjavik Nine’s homepage for further info: www.rvk9.org.

One Response to “Iceland’s Post-Collapse Trial”

  1. […] glaring inconsistency in the charges against the Reykjavik Nine is frequently pointed at: the nine were actually part of a group of over thirty, which itself was […]