In 2004, Hjalti Sigurjon Hauksson was imprisoned for raping his stepdaughter nearly every day for 12 years, starting when she was just 5. Thirteen years later, his crime has helped bring down Iceland's Government.

The story involves Prime Minister Bjarni Benediktsson and his father, Benedikt Sveinsson.

Several months ago, Sveinsson drafted a letter of recommendation for Hauksson, arguing he should have his "honour restored". In Iceland, convicts can have certain civil rights returned by submitting letters of recommendation showing good character. Hauksson and another convicted paedophile, Robert Downey (formerly Robert Arni Hreidarsson), received full pardons.

Those decisions "rattled Icelandic society," according to Iceland Magazine. One of Downey's victims launched a campaign urging the Government to release the letters of support for Downey and Hauksson. But the Justice Ministry refused to respond to questions on the subject. Last week, a parliamentary committee ruled that the Administration was violating freedom of information laws by keeping the names a secret. So the letters were released. On Friday, Iceland's Justice Minister, Sigridur Andersen, said she had informed the Prime Minister of his father's involvement back in June. She said she told no one else. That disclosure smacked of a cover-up and threatened the fragile three-party coalition that put Benediktsson in power last year.

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To secure a majority, his Independence Party joined forces with the centrists and the Bright Future coalition, squeaking in with 32 out of 63 seats. On Saturday, Bright Future voted to leave the Government.

Benediktsson, left without a majority, called his behaviour a "serious breach of trust" and dissolved his Government. He has called for speedy elections.

Benediktsson's father apologised for signing the letter of support for his old friend. "I have never considered the restored honour as anything except a legal procedure making it possible for convicted criminals to regain some civil rights," Sveinsson said. "I did not think of it as something that would justify Hjalti's position toward his victim. I told Hjalti to face his action and to repent."

Hauksson's victim called the situation surreal. She said Hauksson still harasses her.