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Former premier in court for role in financial crisis

Iceland's former prime minister Geir Haarde was in court on Monday to face charges related to his role in the country's economic collapse. Haarde is the first political leader to face a possible trial in connection with the global financial crisis.


AFP - Iceland's former prime minister Geir Haarde became Monday the first political leader to be tried over the global financial crisis as proceedings began to decide if he can be held accountable for his country's banking sector collapse.

Haarde, 60, who arrived minutes before proceedings began at 1000 GMT looking cheerful and accompanied by his wife, has said he would ask the court to dismiss the charges, calling the trial a "farce."

A number of Haarde's conservative Independence Party colleagues had gathered for the historic proceedings of Landsdomur, a never-before used special court for current and ex-ministers.

Upon arriving at the Icelandic Culture House in Reykjavik, chosen because it is large enough to house the proceedings and considered neutral ground, Haarde, wearing a dark suit and blue tie, told AFP he had yet to decide whether he would make a statement after the day's hearing.

"I'm thinking about it," he said.

In an email to AFP last week, he said though that his arguments for throwing out the charges would be published after the hearing.

Haarde was one of four Icelandic politicians blamed in a report last year for contributing to the country's stunning economic collapse, when all its major banks, which at the time held assets equal to 923 percent of gross domestic product, failed in a matter of weeks.

But parliament, now majority-held by Haarde's left-leaning opponents, voted last September that he was the only one who should be charged with "gross neglect."

The bank failure plunged Iceland into a deep recession and sent the value of its krona spiraling.

Haarde, the head of the right-leaning Independence Party who held the reins of government from mid-2006 to early 2009, was ousted after a public uproar over the crisis.


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