A court in Iceland has found former Prime Minister Geir Haarde guilty of one of four charges related to the 2008 financial crisis.
The Landsdomur, a special court designed to deal with Icelandic government ministers, announced on Monday afternoon that Haarde was guilty of failing to hold dedicated meetings with cabinet ministers ahead of the crisis that brought down the nation's banks. The charge carries no prison term or fine, and the court cleared him of three counts of negligence.
It is absurd, Haarde told reporters after the verdict.
It is obvious that the majority of the judges have found themselves pressed to come up with a guilty verdict on one point, however minor, to save the neck of the parliamentarians who instigated this.
Earlier this year, Haarde became the first and only world leader to stand trial for his role in the global economic crisis. He faced up to two years in prison if convicted on charges of gross negligence and mismanagement over the collapse of Iceland's banks in October 2008.
Honestly, I hope they will sentence him to jail because we need it, Hordur Torfason, a 66-year-old activist who led a protest movement after the crisis, told Reuters before the final verdict was read.
He had warning signs years before it happened but he did absolutely nothing.
Iceland suffered one of the largest economic collapses of any country in history, relative to its size, during the 2008 financial meltdown. The national banking system collapsed, with the country's three main financial institutions closing in the same week, and billions of dollars in savings wiped out.
During the trial, prosecutors insisted that if Haarde had implemented economy-strengthening recommendations made by a government committee in 2006, the crisis could have been tempered, according to Iceland's the Journal. Haarde, who pled not guilty to the charges against him, claims that such recommendations wouldn't have prevented the crash.
Haarde continued to defend his management of the country's finances in 2008 and has previously placed some of the blame on bankers, who aren't on trial.
The bankers did not realize that the situation was as dire as it was,'' Haarde said, according to an Associated Press report in Businessweek. It was not until after the crash that everyone saw it coming.
The financial crisis, either directly or indirectly, has already forced the resignations of a number of heads of states, but Haarde nearly became the first politician in the world to be sent to prison over it.
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi stepped down in October after his government decided that he wasn't equipped to handle the country's debt crisis and Greek PM George Papandreou resigned the next month for largely the same reasons. The ongoing financial crisis in Spain has also forced early elections, while the Dutch government nearly collapsed on Monday over an austerity package dispute.