Aug 10 2010

Update on the Reykjavík 9 – August 2010

News from Haukur Már Helgason:

On the 17th of August 2010 the local court of Reykjavík will continue prehearings for the most absurd case in the country’s recent history: The first public prosecution related to the economic collapse of 2008 is not sought against any of those scores of people indicted with corruption, crimes and misdemeanours in a 3000 pages thick detailed report published by Parliament earlier this year, but against nine demonstrators, who in December 2008 entered the public benches of Parliament to read a declaration, concisely summarized in haste as ‘Get the fuck out! This house no longer serves its purpose!’. If anyone honestly disagreed at the time – there were a few – they can make no objections today that this analysis was quite correct. 40 days later, in January 2009, mass protest outed the right-wing government and election followed. Rhetorically, we are all socialists now, whatever that actually means. That winter was the first time public protest actually achieving something in Iceland’s history.

A year later someone seems to have felt it was time for retribution.

There are minor and major charges in the case aginst the nine. Some of the minor charges have simply been proven false, such as a supposed attack causing one guard’s back injuries: a video recording broadcast on public TV news, has demonstrated how the injury was actually caused by the guard’s colleague, clumsily shoving people around, and none of those currently facing charges. Other minor charges may prove as insubstantial – the video recordings show no violent intent – not a single raised fist. The major charges, however, are pressed for a breach of section 100 of the penalty law, interpreting the happening as an ‘attack against Parliament’. Now, that’s certainly something you don’t want sticking to your passport in police databases around the world. Admittedly, the only weapon involved was a single piece of copypaper, the printed declaration. And sure, the beforementioned video shows some defendents calmly hanging up their overcoats before walking upstairs to the benches, open to the public since the founding of democracy. In short, there is no evidence of violent intent, nor any intentional harm to have been done to people or property. Yet, minimalist and modest as it may be, the public prosecutor interprets the occurence as an ‘attack’, meaning that all those nine involved face a minimum sentence of one year in jail, maximum 16.

Peculiarities abound. All in all 30 people took full part in the action – why only nine of those have been charged remains unexplained. Thousands of people then wilfully and successfully halted Parliament’s functioning 40 days later, and deliberately disobeyed police orders during three consequent days and nights of protest – for which no charges have been pressed either, as would be politically disastrous for the government which thus came to be. 700 of those protesters have signed a petition demanding the prosecution will be dropped, or otherwise they should all be charged on the same grounds. The petition was handed to the president of the Parliament, who gesticulated that even if she took the papers their reception was void of meaning as the case had nothing to do with her. She, as the second-highest authority of the state, had already by then repeatedly spoken in public of the defendents’ guilt as a matter of course – a certain libel case if she were not protected by Parliamentary indemnity. More seriously still, it has turned out that as one Jón Ólafsson made characteristically modest comments on the matter in a radio interview, the president of Parliament personally called him up to urge him not to spread such doubts about the prosecution.

As the facts of the matter were set straight in the media, and it became clear to the blogosphere that no bones had been broken, no threats been made, those few but eager servants of power who still want to see some revenge for the events of 2008-2009, are lost with words. They now remain strategically silent.

Meanwhile, the case proceeds slowly. On August 17th, almost a year since charges were originally pressed, the court will rule about a claim made by a lawyer of the defendents that the case be dropped due to the investigating prosecutor’s personal relations to one of the Parliament guards involved. If the claim will be dismissed, the defense will presumably appeal to the high court. And so the case drags on and who knows when – ‘or if’, add the hopeful – witness hearings actually commence.

As the case evolves, news should be updated rather regularly here:

The video mentioned above, which was shown on the national TV, can be seen here:

2 Responses to “Update on the Reykjavík 9 – August 2010”

  1. Korkorahn says:

    something similar in Prague, only with more people and no arrests. 22.000 people signed a petition, as usual to no avail.

  2. […] Here is a recent story about the issue: […]