Denmark frees ex-spy boss accused of leaks

Denmark's Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the release of an ex-military intelligence chief held in custody for more than two months on suspicion of leaking confidential documents.

Denmark's Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the release of an ex-military intelligence chief Lars Findsen
Danish prosecutors on Friday charged the country's former military intelligence chief Lars Findsen with leaking state secrets. File photo: Ida Guldbæk Arentsen/Ritzau Scanpix

The details of the investigation into Lars Findsen are classified, but the case comes in the wake of a scandal regarding the Danish intelligence services’ cooperation with the US National Security Agency (NSA).

Former defence minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen is also being investigated for allegedly divulging state secrets in the matter.

The Supreme Court on Thursday said Findsen, the former head of the FE military intelligence service, “must be released”.

In a statement, the court found nonetheless that there were “well-founded suspicions” that Findsen, who was placed on leave in 2020 despite an untarnished career, had violated an article of the law on state secrets.

“I am naturally happy and grateful for the Supreme Court’s decision,” Findsen said in a statement released by his lawyer.

Findsen has denied the charges against him.

He was arrested on December 8th, 2021 at Copenhagen airport. Three other former and current intelligence officials were also arrested but released shortly thereafter.

READ ALSO: Danish military intelligence head held over leaks

In August 2020, Findsen and several other intelligence officers had been suddenly fired by then defence minister Trine Bramsen.

The exact cause of their dismissal was never disclosed.

But the government accused them of hiding “essential and crucial information” and providing “false information to the authorities” between 2014 and 2020, amid suspicions his service was conducting illegal surveillance.

In May 2021, an investigation by several Danish media, including public broadcaster DR, revealed that the NSA had used Danish underwater cables to spy on officials in Germany, Sweden, Norway and France until at least 2014. 

Former German chancellor Angela Merkel was among the targets of the NSA’s activities.

The revelations sparked an international scandal and the four countries demanded explanations from Washington and Copenhagen.

DR’s revelations were based on a classified Danish military intelligence report codenamed “Operation Dunhammer”.

It was compiled by a secret internal working group at FE after the Edward Snowden scandal and was presented to top FE management in May 2015.

The scandal has also embroiled Hjort Frederiksen, who served as defence minister between 2016 and 2019 and is also accused of leaking state secrets.

He confirmed that ex-US president Bill Clinton and former Danish prime minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen reached an agreement on the use of the underwater cables at the end of the 1990s.

“That’s what I understood. That’s how it is. From what I know,” he told TV2 in December.

Among other embarrassing intelligence details, he also revealed that the agents suspended in 2020 were those who had been in direct contact with the Americans on the matter of the underwater cables. 

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Denmark jails IS ‘wife’ for three years

A 35-year-old Danish woman was sentenced on Friday to three years in prison for entering Syria and promoting the Islamic State (IS) group's activities, prosecutors in Denmark said.

Denmark jails IS 'wife' for three years

During the mother of five’s trial, the prosecutor had argued that wives were a key part of IS.

“Even if you did not actively participate in the fighting, we assert that you can support the terrorist organisation by shopping in its supermarkets, by taking care of the children, by being a housewife,” prosecutor Trine Schjodt
Fogh said.

The woman, who pleaded guilty, was convicted of “having promoted the activities of IS, in particular by acting as the housewife and wife of a person who was active in the terrorist organisation,” the prosecution authority said in a statement.

She was also found guilty of having “entered and resided in al-Raqqa district in Raqqa province and Deir al-Zour province in Syria, which were defined as conflict zones during the period”.

The  woman, who is originally from the west of Denmark, arrived in Syria eight years ago, a journey she “bitterly” regrets, her lawyer Mette Gith Stage told news agency Ritzau.

“The last few years have been difficult for her, first in the caliphate, then in a prison camp and now in prison. She misses her children terribly and is eager for the case to end so that she and her children can move on,” the
lawyer said.

In October 2021, Denmark removed three women and 14 children from the Kurdish-controlled Roj camp in north-eastern Syria in a joint operation with Germany.

The three women were arrested on arrival in Denmark and have since been in detention and the trial that just ended marks the first of three.