Attempt to Prosecute Former Danish Defence Minister and Spy Chief Collapses

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) – Danish prosecution dismissed Wednesday two separate cases against a former defense minister and an ex-head of the country´s foreign intelligence service due to the inability to divulge classified information in court. Both were charged with leaking state secrets.

Last week, Denmark´s highest court ruled that the two cases which have been shrouded in secrecy, should be made public and sessions were to be closed off whenever sensitive information was presented.

In a statement, Denmark´s prosecution authority said that “in the interests of the state´s security, it is no longer safe to make highly classified information available in criminal proceedings.” Prosecutor Jakob Berger Nielsen said in the statement that the legal process would have forced “the disclosure of confidential information.”

Former defense minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen, 76, had in several interviews in 2020 and 2021, alleged that the Danish Defense Intelligence Service – which is responsible for overseas activities – had helped the NSA eavesdrop on leaders in Germany, France, Sweden and Norway, including former German chancellor Angela Merkel.

The alleged setup between the United States and Denmark allowed the NSA to obtain data by using the telephone numbers of politicians as search parameters. The military agency reportedly helped the NSA from 2012 to 2014.

Reports in 2013 that the NSA had listened in on German government phones, including Merkel´s, prompted a diplomatic spat between Berlin and Washington, and French President Emmanuel Macron said that if correct “this is not acceptable between allies.”

Then-Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg called it “unacceptable” and said that spying on others “creates more mistrust than it creates collaboration.”

In the other case, spy chief Lars Findsen, 59, had been charged with leaking highly classified information to six different people, including two journalists.

His interviews were based on his time as head of the Danish Defense Intelligence Service from 2015 until he was suspended in August 2020 after an independent watchdog heavily criticized the spy agency for deliberately withholding information and violating laws in Denmark.

He was arrested in Dec. 2021 at the Copenhagen airport.

“The classified information is absolutely central to the cases. Without being able to present them in court, the prosecution has no opportunity to lift the burden of proof,” Berger Nielsen, the prosecutor, said.

News of the dismissed cases dominated Danish media.

Hjort Frederiksen welcomed the decision on live TV and said, “it was gratifying.”

The head of Denmark´s domestic security service, Finn Borch Andersen, expressed concern over the inability to have cases with classified information in court, saying, “we are in a serious situation.” He called for new legislation “so that it becomes possible to try such cases in a reassuring manner.”


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