Danish court convicts ex-minister for separating young asylum-seeking couples

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Former Danish immigration minister Inger Stojberg, known for her hardline stance in that role, was handed a 60-day prison sentence on Monday by an impeachment court for having illegally ordered the separation of under-age couples seeking asylum.

Stojberg was accused of knowingly breaking the law by ordering the separation of all asylum-seeking refugee couples where at least one was under 18 years of age, a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights.

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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.

The right-wing politician, minister from 2015 to 2019 for the Liberal Party, has repeatedly denied giving any illegal order, saying the aim of the action was to stamp out child marriages and protect underage girls.

“We are satisfied with the verdict,” prosecutors Jon Lauritzen and Anne Birgitte Gammeljord told reporters outside the court. “It’s a historic case.”

Earlier on Monday, Stojberg told local media she expected to be acquitted.

The case started when a Syrian couple complained to the country’s ombudsman in 2016 after they were placed in separate asylum centers. A commission launched to investigate the case, also known as the “child bride case,” concluded last year the order was “clearly illegal.”

25 out of the 26 judges agreed to convict Stojberg in only the sixth impeachment court of its kind in the Nordic country in more than 170 years and the first since 1995.

The verdict is final and cannot be appealed.

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