Iceland ex-PM Haarde 'partly' guilty over 2008 crisis

Geir Haarde described the charge as "laughable"

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Former Icelandic PM Geir Haarde has been found not guilty of negligence over the 2008 financial crisis that saw the island's economy go into meltdown.

A special court in Reykjavik said Mr Haarde would face no punishment and his legal expenses would be paid for.

But he was found guilty of one of the four charges: not holding cabinet meetings when things turned critical.

Mr Haarde, 61, is thought to be the first world leader to face criminal charges over the financial crisis.

Iceland's three main banks collapsed during economic turmoil and the failure of online bank Icesave hit thousands.

The collapse led to a dispute over compensation between the UK and Iceland, which remains unresolved.

Some Icelanders have seen the trial of Mr Haarde as scapegoating, while others have argued that public accountability is essential following the country's financial collapse.

'Absurd' verdict

The main points of the 500-page verdict were announced on Monday by the court's chief Judge Markus Sigurbjornsson.

He said that - despite being found guilty on one charge - "Geir Haarde will not be punished".

The proceedings were held at the Landsdomur court - the first case of the special court founded in 1905 to deal with criminal charges against Icelandic government ministers.

The panel consisted of 15 members: five supreme court justices, a district court president, a constitutional law professor and eight people chosen by parliament.

Mr Haarde later described the verdict as "absurd".

"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," he told reporters.

Mr Haarde, who led the country's government in 2006-09, had argued during the trial that he was only doing what he thought was best for the country at the time.

Before the case opened he had tried unsuccessfully to have all charges dismissed, calling the proceedings "preposterous'' and saying that his conscience was clear.

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