The case, in which former Cabinet minister Inger Støjberg was slapped with a belated impeachment and prison sentence, raised the eyebrows of legal professionals, who saw it as exceptionally harsh. By her own admission, she sought to protect the migrant child brides from all sorts of abuse.
Former Danish Immigration Minister Inger Støjberg has been sentenced to 60 days in prison over an illegal order she made in 2016 to separate asylum seeker couples.
While Støjberg maintained that she acted against the phenomenon of child brides and sought to protect the girls from all sorts of abuse, the court found that she intentionally acted against the law when she ordered that couples be separated without individual case assessment if either of the partners (usually the wife) was below the age of 18. Her decision was therefore found to be “unlawful”, TV2 reported. All in all, some two dozen couples were separated.
The punishment is unconditional and cannot be appealed, meaning she will serve the prison sentence. She could, however, be permitted to serve a short period by using an electronic tag. According to Danish media, the former minister was seen to open her mouth in surprise as the verdict was pronounced.
Nevertheless, she subsequently composed herself and said she had no regrets, lamenting the “Danish values” that were “lost today”.
Støjberg reiterated her claim that “there is something completely wrong when one cannot protect girls from the disgusting phenomenon that child marriage is” and pledged to take her punishment “without bending her neck”.
However, the verdict surprised even legal professionals. Frederik Waage, a professor of administrative law at the University of Southern Denmark, called the 60 days in prison a “harsh sentence”.
“It is very remarkable that one ignores some comprehensive testimonies from, say, department heads”, Waage told TV2.
Political commentator Hans Engell also argued that the verdict was harsh and ventured that the testimonies of the officials were “completely swept off the table”. It also surprised Hans Engell that all but one of the 26 judges thought it was a clear offence.
The damning verdict was the culmination of a protracted trial that lasted 30 sessions over several months in late 2021. This is only the second impeachment case in modern Danish history. In 1995, former Justice Minister Erik Ninn-Hansen was sentenced to four months’ probation due to illegal processing of applications for family reunification for Tamils. A total of 300 Tamil applications were secretly suspended, which led the coalition government led by Conservative Poul Schlüter to resign.
Støjberg has long been a highly popular, yet divisive figure in Danish politics, not least because of her hardline immigration policies under the previous liberal-conservative Venstre government, which was voted out in 2019.
Since leaving government and being expelled from her party over the trial, Støjberg has become a political savage, yet has been tipped as one of the candidates to lead the national-conservative Danish People’s Party, which found itself in the doldrums following the recent election. Now, the parliament will decide whether to disqualify Støjberg from being a member of parliament.