A former Danish immigration minister is on trial on rare impeachment charges. Inger Stoejberg is accused of illegally separating couples who arrived in the country to claim asylum.
A historic impeachment trial began in Denmark on Thursday against former immigration minister Inger Stoejberg, who introduced a series of tough immigration measures during her tenure from 2015 to 2019.
The impeachment trial focuses on a 2016 decision by Stoejberg whereby she ordered the separation of married couples seeking asylum in cases where one of the spouses was a minor. Stoejberg said at the time that she had introduced the measure out of concerns that it might have been a forced marriage.
In Denmark, the legal age of marriage is 18; however, the women in the marriages who were under 18 said all they had consented to their marriages.
Stoejberg spearheaded the tightening of asylum and immigration rules in Denmark for example by adopting a controversial law in 2016 requiring newly arrived asylum-seekers to hand over valuables such as jewelry and gold to help pay for their stays in the country.
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The parliamentary ombudsman and a parliamentary commission subsequently found the decision to be "clearly illegal," and highlighted that Stoejberg had been advised of this fact at the time.
The 26 judges of the special court, which only convenes to try former or current members of government, will determine whether Stoejberg deliberately violated the European Convention on Human Rights.
The 48-year-old ex-minister denies any wrongdoing and told reporters that she fully expects to be acquitted. Her trial is due to run until November 30. Stoejberg could face a fine or a maximum prison sentence of two years.
A rare trial
Stoejberg was also found to have misled parliamentary committees on four separate occasions when informing them of her decision. Because of her decision, 32 couples were to be separated -- 23 of whom were actually split up before the policy was halted months later.
Most of the women among the separated couples were between the ages of 15 and 17, while the men were between 15 and 32. Most of them had come to Denmark from Syria, and some of the couples had children or were expecting.
This is Denmark's first impeachment case in 26 years, and only the third time since 1910 that a member of government has been tried by the Court of Impeachment.
With AFP, AP, dpa