COPENHAGEN (Reuters) – Former Danish immigration minister Inger Stojberg, known for her tough stance in this capacity, was sentenced on Monday to 60 days in prison by an impeachment court for illegally ordering the separation of underage asylum seekers.
Stojberg was accused of knowingly breaking the law in 2016 by ordering the separation of all asylum-seeking refugee couples, at least one of whom was under 18, in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Under Danish and Human Rights Law, couples must be assessed individually, implying that the Minister’s order to separate all underage couples was illegal. A total of 23 couples were separated.
“I’m very, very surprised. I think it’s Danish values that have lost,” Stojberg told reporters. “I wanted and want to protect these girls.”
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The right-wing politician, Minister from 2015-19 of the Liberal Party, has repeatedly denied having issued illegal orders. The aim is to stamp out child marriages and to protect underage girls.
Stojberg was considered one of the main architects of Denmark’s tough immigration policy, which enabled the authorities to confiscate jewelry from asylum seekers.
“I will bear my punishment with my head held high,” she said.
The case began when a Syrian couple complained to the country’s ombudsman in 2016 after being placed in separate asylum centers. A commission of inquiry into the case, also known as the “Child Bride Case”, concluded that the order was “clearly unlawful”.
25 of the 26 judges agreed to only try Stojberg in the sixth impeachment court of its kind in Scandinavia for more than 170 years and for the first time since 1995.
“We are satisfied with the verdict,” said prosecutors Jon Lauritzen and Anne Birgitte Gammeljord to reporters. “It’s a historic case.”
The judgment is final and cannot be appealed.
(Reporting by Nikolaj Skydsgaard, Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen and Stine Jacobsen; editing by Jan Harvey and Ed Osmond)
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