Denmark will hold its first political trial in three decades after the country’s ruling party supported a vote in parliament to try a former immigration minister.
Inger Støjberg served as Denmark’s immigration minister from 2015 to 2019.
In 2016, she issued an order to separate asylum-seeking couples where one of the pair was under the age of 18.
The order separated 23 married couples, some of whom had one or more children together, before being halted.
The Danish Parliamentary Ombudsman later found the order was illegal as it did not allow authorities to individually assess or consult those affected.
Støjberg has denied knowingly breaking the law and says the policy was aimed to prevent child marriages in the country. An investigation into the so-called “child bride case” led to her resignation as vice-president of the Liberal Party.
The move by the Social Democrats meant that a majority of the 179-seat Folketing was in favour of Støjberg facing the rarely used Court of Impeachment.
Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said in a statement that the party supported the motion “on the basis of the clear legal assessments”.
Now a majority in parliament has decided the minister should face trial, Støjberg cannot appeal. If convicted, she faces a fine or maximum prison sentence of two years.
Earlier this month, lawyers appointed by parliament had said that there was a legal basis to charge Støjberg after a commission report said the order was “clearly illegal”.
The former minister had also received warnings from her department that the practice was unlawful, the Commission found.
Støjberg was considered an immigration hardliner and used her time in office to tighten rules for asylum seekers. In 2016, Denmark adopted a law requiring new arrivals to hand over valuables, including jewellery, to help pay for their stay in the country.
The Court of Impeachment, which adjudicates cases where a government minister is accused of unlawful misconduct and misuse of office, was last used in 1995 and has only heard five cases since it was created in 1849. Only two ministers have been found guilty in the court’s history.
In 1995, former Justice Minister Erik Ninn-Hansen was given a suspended four-month prison sentence for preventing refugees from Sri Lanka from bringing their families to Denmark.