A rarely-used law is being used to try nine people for their part in a protest aainst Iceland's Parliament two years ago. The controversial trial of the Reykjavik 9 opens today.
On December 8, 2008, as a crowd of protesters gathered outside the Parliament building in Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital, about 30 protesters entered the building through the visitor’s entrance, past the security guards, and some went into the visitor’s section of Parliament’s chamber to voice their protest. After some scuffling they were escorted out of the building. The incident was described as generally peaceful.
A year later, nine of those who took part were notified that they would face charges of “threatening the government,” used only once before in the country’s history. If convicted, the accused could face terms anywhere from a year to life in prison. As for why those nine were chosen for prosecution, authorities explained it was because they were the only ones who could be positively identified from surveillance tapes.
The case of the Reykjavik 9 has caused considerable controversy in Iceland. Last summer, more than 700 people signed a petition calling for the charges to be dropped, claiming the protest had been a peaceful one, and that the nine defendants have been unfairly singled out.
“We believe, especially after having examined the evidence, that this was a violence-free act,” said Bryndis Bjorgvinsdottir, one of the petition’s organizers, in the Icelandic Review. “It is our opinion that thousands of people are complicit with the group of nine. It is clear that these nine are being made scapegoats.”
Members of Parliament themselves are divided over the issue.
“If someone was injured and if there was violence involved, then that is a different story. The issue is first and foremost politically motivated. This is political persecution,” said MP Birgitta Jonsdottir of the Movement Party in an article in The Reykjavik Grapevine.