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Pedophile scandal brings down Iceland's government

Iceland's ruling coalition has collapsed over anger at a pedophile scandal. The prime minister has called the country's second snap election in two years.

Icelandic Prime Minister Bjarni Benediktsson on Friday called a snap election after a junior coalition member quit the nine-month-old government.

The centrist Bright Future Party said there was a "serious breach of trust" after allegations emerged that the prime minister tried to cover up his father's role in clearing the record of a convicted pedophile.

Benediktsson said the country should hold elections in November.

"We have lost the majority and I don't see anything that indicates we can regain that. I am calling an election," Benediktsson told reporters.

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.

Bright Future Party has four seats in parliament.

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Restoring honor

The scandal relates to Benediktsson's father, Benedikt Sveinsson, writing a recommendation letter for a convicted pedophile under an Icelandic law that allows those who have served time to "restore their honor" and regain many rights.

The law requires letters of support from persons of outstanding character to expunge a criminal's record.     

In 2004, Hjalti Sigurjon Hauksson, a friend of Sveinsson, was convicted of raping his step-daughter nearly every day for 12 years. He was sentenced to five years in prison.

Bright Future Party accused the prime minister and the justice minister of attempting to keep the letter from the public until it became known on Thursday. The Justice Minister is said to have informed the prime minister about the letter in July.

The case has sparked debate about the law to rehabilitate convicts, especially convicted pedophiles. 

"People spoke out about violence which women and children were subjected to. People spoke out when convicted abusers knocked on their friends' doors to ask for favors," the Icelandic Women's Rights Association said in a statement.

Benediktsson is a former finance minister who was also named in the Panama Papers as having offshore accounts.

cw/rg (AFP, AP, Reuters)

 

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