Iceland government falls over pedophile letter cover up

Iceland government falls over pedophile letter cover up

His Independence Party, the Reform Party and Bright Future Party formed a coalition with a slim one seat majority following October elections that were called after the former prime minister resigned amid a scandal over off-shore accounts revealed in the Panama Paper leaks.

REYKJAVIK (Reuters) - Iceland's prime minister said on Saturday the president had accepted his request for a snap parliamentary election, and November 4 had been discussed as a possible date.

It follows claims the PM's Independence Party tried to hide a letter written by his father Benedikt Sveinsson to help a friend convicted of child sex offences get his criminal record wiped clean.

In 2004, Hjalti Sigurjon Hauksson was convicted of raping his stepdaughter nearly every day for 12 years and was sentenced to five years in prison.

A snap parliamentary election was declared in Iceland after the government coalition collapsed against the background of the scandal over recommendation letters for pedophilia convicts.

Bjarni Benediktsson of the Independence Party, left, shakes hands with then Iceland's Prime Minister Sigurdur Ingi Johannsson in a TV studio a year ago.

Icelandic journalist Hjortur Gudmundsson said that the coalition is already fragile and another election would be a likely option.

Benediktsson's father, Benedikt Sveinsson, had helped a convicted child molester apply for a clause in the country's judicial system allowing those who've served sentences for serious crimes to "restore their honor".

The centrist Bright Future Party, which had four seats in Iceland's parliament, the Althini, said in a Facebook post that there was "a serious breach of trust" behind its withdrawal.

His father, Benedikt Sveinsson, confirmed on Friday that he had signed a letter supporting his friend's application to have his "honour restored", a procedure that effectively erases a criminal record.

"We have lost the majority and I don't see anything that indicates we can regain that", he added.

The premier said on Friday that he was "shocked" to hear of his father's letter, never tried to hide anything and was never part of the decision process in the cases in question.

"I did not think of it as something that would justify Hjalti's position towards his victim".

"What was supposed to be a small gesture of good will towards a convicted criminal has instead turned into a continuation of the tragedy for his victim. For this I again apologisze".

"This is not the first time controversy has been linked to the PM - he was implicated in the Panama Papers [which brought down the previous government, in which he was finance minister]".

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