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Cablegate: Iceland Demands Apology in Detention Case

VZCZCXYZ0007
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHRK #0335 3471843
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 131843Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY REYKJAVIK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0000
INFO RUEHCP/AMEMBASSY COPENHAGEN
RHMFIUU/US CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/DEPT OF HOMELAND SECURITY WASHINGTON DC
RUEAORD/BICE ASAC JFK NEW YORK NY
RHMFIUU/HQ BICE WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/HOMELAND SECURITY CENTER WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS REYKJAVIK 000335

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EUR/PPD AND EUR/NB; CA/VO/P AND CA/VO/F/P
COPENHAGEN FOR DHS RICHARD KLUGMAN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: CVIS KHLS PREL KPAO IC
SUBJECT: ICELAND DEMANDS APOLOGY IN DETENTION CASE


1. THE AMBASSADOR WAS CALLED IN BY MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS
GISLADOTTIR ON DECEMBER 13 TO HEAR ICELANDIC CONCERNS REGARDING THE
CASE OF ERLA OSK ARNARDOTTIR, WHO WAS DETAINED BY U.S. IMMIGRATION
AUTHORITIES FOR ALMOST 24 HOURS FOLLOWING HER ARRIVAL AT JFK AIRPORT
DECEMBER 9 (SEPTEL). SAYING SHE HAD SPOKEN AT LENGTH TO MS.
ARNARDOTTIR EARLIER TODAY, GISLADOTTIR SAID SHE WAS SHOCKED BY WHAT
SHE SAID WAS THE GROSSLY INAPPROPRIATE TREATMENT OF MS. ARNARDOTTIR
BY U.S. IMMIGRATION AUTHORITIES. THE MINISTER DESCRIBED MS.
ARNARDOTTIR'S EXPERIENCE, WHICH REPORTEDLY INCLUDED CONFINEMENT,
ISOLATION, AND BEING HAULED IN SHACKLES AND HANDCUFFS THROUGH PUBLIC
AREAS OF JFK, AS INHUMANE AND DEGRADING. SHE SAID THE EXPERIENCE
HAD LEFT MS. ARNARDOTTIR HUMILIATED AND OUTRAGED.

2. THE FOREIGN MINISTER NOTED THAT THE CASE HAS GENERATED WIDE
INTEREST ALL OVER THE COUNTRY. THE ICELANDIC PUBLIC IS BOTH
APPALLED AND ANGRY. THE GOVERNMENT HAS BEEN FLOODED WITH PHONE
CALLS AND E-MAILS FROM CITIZENS PROTESTING THIS PARTICULAR CASE OR
REGISTERING COMPLAINTS OF THEIR OWN ABOUT PROBLEMS CROSSING THE U.S.
BORDER. GISLADOTTIR WARNED THAT THE DAMAGE TO THE U.S. PUBLIC IMAGE
WAS SEVERE. SHE SAID AN OFFICIAL APOLOGY FROM THE USG WAS DUE.

3. THE AMBASSADOR REPLIED THAT THE U.S. WELCOMES MILLIONS OF GUESTS
A YEAR AND WE TAKE IT SERIOUSLY WHEN VISITORS TO OUR COUNTRY REPORT
THAT THEY HAVE NOT BEEN TREATED APPROPRIATELY BY U.S. OFFICIALS.
SHE SAID THE EMBASSY HAS ALREADY RAISED THE CASE WITH THE U.S.
CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION AUTHORITIES AT THE AIRPORT, AS WELL AS
WITH DHS HEADQUARTERS. WE HAVE ASKED CBP FOR A FULL REPORT OF MS.
ARNARDOTTIR'S DETENTION. THE AMBASSADOR ASSURED THE FORMIN THAT WE
WOULD INFORM THE GOI OF THE RESULTS OF THE INQUIRY.

4. THE FOREIGN MINISTER WELCOMED THE INVESTIGATION, WHICH SHE HOPED
WOULD BE CONCLUDED SWIFTLY. SHE ADDED, HOWEVER, THAT IF THE
INVESTIGATION SHOWED THAT MS. ARNARDOTTIR HAD IN FACT BEEN HANDLED
ACCORDING TO THE CBP'S STANDARD POLICY, THEN IT WAS HER GOVERNMENT'S
OPINION THAT THE U.S. BORDER PROTOCOL RAISED TROUBLING QUESTIONS OF
HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSE. GISLADOTTIR SAID THE GOI TOOK THE POSITION THAT
THE TREATMENT OF MS. ARNARDOTTIR, WHOSE OFFENSE WAS UNWITTING AND
WHO POSED NO DANGER TO THE U.S., SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN THE SAME AS
THAT OF A DANGEROUS CRIMINAL.

5. EMBASSY COMMENT: GISLADOTTIR, WHO HAS PUT HUMAN RIGHTS AT THE
TOP OF THE MFA'S ACTION LIST, WAS CLEARLY BOTH PERTURBED AND
ENGAGED. (NOTE: SHE TOLD THE PRESS JUST PRIOR TO THE MEETING THAT
SHE WOULD ASK FOR AN APOLOGY; SHE ALSO MET WITH THE PRESS
IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWING THE MEETING.) WE SHARE HER ASSESSMENT THAT
THIS INCIDENT --REGARDLESS OF WHAT HAPPENED -- IS A SERIOUS BLOW TO
THE U.S. IMAGE IN ICELAND. HEAVY PUBLICITY HAS ENSURED THE CASE IS
THE TALK OF THE COUNTRY. IT IS IMPORTANT THAT WE GET THE STORY OFF
THE FRONT PAGES BY SORTING OUT THE DETAILS OF THE DETENTION AND
REPORTING BACK TO THE GOVERNMENT OF ICELAND AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.
THE FOREIGN MINISTER AS WELL AS THE PRIME MINISTER ARE PERSONALLY
INVOLVED IN THE ISSUE AND ARE NOT LIKELY TO LET IT SLIDE.

VAN VOORST

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