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Iceland Parliament to Decide on Charges Against Former Premier

Iceland’s parliament will decide whether to proceed with charges against former Prime Minister Geir H. Haarde, who presided over the nation’s 2008 economic collapse.

The late-evening vote by the Reykjavik-based Althing was 31 to 29 in favor of reviewing the charges.

A parliamentary committee accused Haarde of failing to protect Iceland from “grave” financial danger and said he should have forced lenders to reduce balance sheets that swelled to 10 times the size of the economy before they failed. The boom helped turn the Atlantic island into the world’s fifth-richest economy per capita just one year before the collapse forced it to turn to the International Monetary Fund for a bailout and sent the krona plunging as much as 80 percent against the euro.

Haarde, 60, stepped down more than three years ago amid street protests. While several former executives at failed banks are being investigated and some have been convicted and jailed, Haarde is the only politician to face trial.

A special prosecutor appointed by parliament presented Haarde with an indictment in May, more than seven months after the legislature agreed he should be charged for his role in the meltdown. Haarde has said that the delay may be a violation of “the constitutional right to a speedy trial.”

If Iceland’s parliament decides to withdraw the charges, no further legal action can be taken against the former prime minister, according to Iceland’s law on ministerial responsibility.

“I declare myself innocent of all the counts,” Haarde told a Reykjavik-based court on June 7. “During my long career as a Cabinet member I always endeavored to take decisions based on honesty and responsibility bearing in mind the best interests of the country.”

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