Danish prosecutors seek to indict former defense minister | Government and politics

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Denmark’s top prosecuting authority said Thursday it would seek to have the parliamentary immunity of a former defense minister waived so he can be charged with unlawfully disclosing ” highly classified information”.

The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions said it would contact the Folketing, Denmark’s parliament, regarding the immunity of Claus Hjort Frederiksen. He served as the country’s defense minister from November 2016 to June 2019.

Details of the charges against Hjort Frederiksen could not be given due to “the special nature of the case” which involves sensitive information, Denmark’s justice ministry said in a statement.

Hjort Frederiksen, who is a lawmaker in parliament and a senior member of Denmark’s liberal opposition, faces up to 12 years in prison if convicted of unauthorized disclosure of highly classified information.

Danish media have speculated that the case may be linked to allegations that Denmark’s foreign secret services helped the United States spy on European leaders, including former German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

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In a TV interview in December, Hjort Frederiksen spoke of a secret eavesdropping agreement struck between the United States and Denmark in the late 1990s.

“I have to risk a prison sentence. … I informed them (Danish officials) that this agreement existed,” he said.

The deal gave the Danish intelligence community a lot of useful information” and “trusted partner” status with the United States, Hjort Frederiksen said.

Danish broadcaster DR reported that the Danish Defense Intelligence Service, known in Denmark by its acronym FE, conducted an internal investigation in 2014 into whether the US National Security Agency had used its cooperation with the Danes to spy Denmark and neighboring countries.

The investigation, dubbed Operation Dunhammer, concluded that the NSA had eavesdropped on political leaders and officials in Germany, France, Sweden and Norway.

Hjort Frederiksen reacted to the steps of the prosecutors Thursday by attacking the social democratic government.

“I sincerely hope that the public and all members of the Folketing can now understand what the government thinks I have done which is considered treason,” he told Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet.

Danish media have also speculated that the case may be linked to the December arrest of Denmark’s former foreign intelligence chief. Lars Findsen was remanded in custody on a preliminary charge of “disclosing highly classified information” before an appeals court ordered his release in February by an appeals court.

In Denmark, preliminary charges are a step away from formal charges, but allow authorities to keep suspects in custody pending an investigation.

Details of the allegations against Findsen, who was suspended in August 2020, are also unknown, and the case has been shrouded in secrecy.

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