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Former Danish minister faces charges in ‘baby bride’ case

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Photo Photo: Danish Minister of Immigration and Integration Inger Stojberg listens to the debate in the Danish Parliament, January 26, 2016. REUTERS / Mathias Loevgreen Bojesen / Scanpix / File Photo. Photo of Files

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) – Former Danish Immigration Minister Inger Stojberg, known for her tough stance in that role, is facing blame for illegally ordering the separation of underage couples seeking asylum.

The center-right politician, who served as minister from 2015 to 2019, said the aim of the action was to destroy child marriages.

In the indictment, which would be only Denmarks sixth in more than 170 years and the first since 1995, she is charged with knowingly breaking the law in 2016 by ordering the separation of underage refugee couples.

A majority in parliament on Thursday voiced support for an impeachment, including its Liberal Party, but the decision awaits final approval.

Over the past decade Denmark has gained notoriety for its tough immigration policies, such as allowing authorities to confiscate asylum seekers’ jewelry and preventing Middle Eastern refugees by adding newspapers to their countries.

Stojberg was also behind a plan to keep foreign criminals facing deportation on a small island, though the plan was later abandoned by the current government.

The case began when a Syrian couple complained to the country ombudsman in 2016 after they were placed in separate asylum centers. Stojberg has repeatedly denied giving any illegal orders and said she wanted to protect underage girls.

Under Danish law and human rights, each couple must be assessed individually, meaning that the ministers’ order to separate all juvenile couples was illegal. In total, 23 couples split up.

An investigation into the matter, also known as the child bride case, ended in December the order to indiscriminately separate all underage couples was clearly illegal and in violation of human rights.

Reporting by Tim Barsoe, Nikolai Skydsgaard and Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen; Edited by Angus MacSwan

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