Historic impeachment trial for Danish ex-minister

A historic impeachment trial gets underway in Denmark on Thursday against a former minister who spearheaded dozens of tough immigration measures.

Inger Stoejberg is accused of unlawfully ordering the separation of young asylum-seeking couples in 2016.

She is facing a landmark lawsuit, which accuses her of bearing responsibility for breaking the law.

It is Denmark’s first impeachment case in almost three decades, and only the second held in a century.

Between 2015 to 2019, Ms Stoejberg served as Denmark’s immigration minister in a centre-right government propped up by the right-wing populist Danish People’s Party.

Under her watch more than 100 new restrictions were introduced.

Advertisements were taken out in Lebanese newspapers to deter refugees and rules around family reunification were tightened up, drawing criticism from the United Nations refugee agency.

After imposing 50 new immigration curbs, she stirred controversy by celebrating with a cake.

Among other headline-grabbing measures were the confiscation of valuables from asylum-seekers and a now-scrapped plan to send foreign criminals to an uninhabited island in the Baltic Sea.

The impeachment case stems from an order Inger Stoejberg gave in February 2016 that married refugees under 18 years old must not be accommodated with their spouse.

Twenty-three married couples, some with children, were separated before the policy was dropped a few months later.

Among them were a young Syrian couple, Rimaz Alkayal, then 17 and her spouse Alnour Alwan, 26, who were reunited following a complaint. They had been forced to live apart for four months, even though she was pregnant.

It has been a long journey to Denmark’s Supreme Court.

Inquiries by both the country’s ombudsman and a special commission concluded that the separations were illegal. Requirements to individually assess or consult those affected had been ignored and breached human rights.

The “Instrukskommission” or Directive Commission also said that the former minister had been warned by staff that the practice was unlawful.

Two independent attorneys then determined there were grounds for impeachment, and earlier this year, a large majority of MPs voted in favour, including Inger Stoejberg’s own party, the Liberals. -BBC

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