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Ex-Iceland PM on trial for role in banking crisis

06 march 2012, 13:28
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Iceland's ex-prime minister Geir Haarde shakes hands with Sigridur Fridjonsdottir, Parliament prosecutor in Reykjavik on March 5, 2012. ©AFP
Iceland's ex-prime minister Geir Haarde shakes hands with Sigridur Fridjonsdottir, Parliament prosecutor in Reykjavik on March 5, 2012. ©AFP
Iceland's former prime minister Geir Haarde was to go on trial Monday over his role in the 2008 banking sector collapse that brought the Nordic country to its knees, AFP reports.

Haarde, 60, who has dismissed the case as a farce, was one of four politicians blamed in a 2010 report for contributing to the country's stunning financial collapse, when all its major banks failed in a matter of weeks.

But parliament voted in September 2010 that he was the only one who should be tried on charges related to the crisis, including charges related to the collapse of the Icesave bank that spawned a fiery diplomatic row with Britain and the Netherlands.

Last October, the court meanwhile threw out the most serious charge of "gross neglect".

Haarde, who headed the right-leaning Independence Party and held the reins of government from mid-2006 to early 2009 when his coalition was ousted amid public uproar over the crisis, thus became the first person to go before the Landsdomur, a never-before used special court for current and ex-ministers.

Parliament has since the beginning of the year been debating whether to drop all charges and call off the trial against Haarde, but finally voted last week to allow the trial to proceed.

The trial, which was to begin at 0900 GMT, is set to last 10 days, until March 15, but it is unclear how quickly a verdict can be expected after that.

The proceedings are being held at the Icelandic Culture House in Reykjavik, chosen because it is large enough to house the proceedings and considered neutral ground.

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