The court found that Støjberg intentionally acted against the law when she ordered that couples be separated without individual case assessment if one of the partners is under the age of 18.
“Inger Støjberg is found guilty of a deliberate violation of the Ministerial Responsibility Act,” Denmark’s Court of Impeachment of the Realm said in a statement, adding that the punishment had been set at 60 days in jail.
The verdict was delivered in Copenhagen by chair of the impeachment court, Thomas Rørdam, following over 30 court sessions which have taken place throughout late 2021.
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“The majority finds that the directive was illegal. Illegal case processing was a consequence of Støjberg’s decision to implement new practice with immediate effect,” Rørdam said.
The former minister was seen to open her mouth in surprise as the verdict was pronounced.
Her punishment is unconditional, meaning she will serve the prison sentence. She could, however, be permitted to serve a short period by using an electronic tag. The verdict cannot be appealed.
The court consisted of 26 judges, 13 of which were selected by parliament with the other 13 coming from the Danish supreme court, Højesteret. Of the 26, all but one voted to convict Støjberg.
A majority of 15 of the 26 judges were in favour of an unconditional prison sentence.
The impeachment court was established after parliament in February voted in favour of putting Støjberg on trial.
The rarely used impeachment court only convenes to try former or current members of government, and Støjberg’s trial was only the third of its kind since 1910.
The verdict means the ex-minister was guilty of violating the European Convention on Human Rights when she ordered the separation of asylum seeker couples in 2016 where the woman was under 18 — though the age differences were mostly small — without examining the cases individually.
Her decision was found to be “unlawful” because the arrangement was made without exceptions and the immigration service did not consider individual cases.
Støjberg has long been a divisive figure in Danish politics, not least because of her hardline policies and often-populist image while immigration minister under the previous government, which was voted out in 2019.
These included publishing anti-refugee advertisements in Lebanese newspapers, posting a picture of a celebratory cake on social media after passing a 50th law curbing immigration, and a law enabling Danish authorities to confiscate valuable items from refugees.
Since leaving government and the Liberal party, she has echoed former US president Donald Trump by using the phrase “drain the swamp” when addressing a demonstration against the current government.
She was, however, the architect of a successful apprenticeship scheme for refugees while immigration minister, and defended the scheme when it was attacked by the far right.
Parliament must now decide whether to disqualify Støjberg from being a member of parliament.