Tue. Jan 18th, 2022

A former Danish defense minister has been charged with disclosing state secrets as part of a growing intelligence scandal in the Scandinavian country over US espionage using data provided by Denmark.

Claus Hjort Frederiksen, Minister of Defense from 2016 to 2019, said on Friday that he was charged under a section of the country’s criminal code that includes high treason, and carries a maximum sentence of 12 years in prison.

This follows his comments in various local media in 2020 and last year about a long-standing agreement that Denmark allegedly had with the US over eavesdropping, which allows Washington to use Danish data to spy on other countries and politicians.

“I have expressed myself as a member of parliament in a political matter, and I currently have nothing further to add. “I could never dream of doing anything that could harm Denmark’s or Denmark’s interests,” Frederiksen said in a statement issued by his center-right Liberal party on Friday. Prosecutors declined to comment.

His indictment comes just days after local media revealed that Lars Findsen, head of Denmark’s foreign intelligence unit and a former head of his security services, had been jailed for the past month for leaking classified material.

The widespread scandal is still largely shrouded in mystery as authorities have said almost nothing in public about their investigation, but analysts in Denmark say the briefings and leaks about alleged US involvement are increasingly threatening the country’s international reputation.

Findsen, the only man in charge of both Denmark’s intelligence services, dismissed the charges against him as “insane” and said he would plead not guilty, according to Danish journalists present at the court hearing.

Danish authorities said in December that they had charged three current or former intelligence officers with Findsen for leaking confidential information, but the exact charges and secrets allegedly leaked were not disclosed.

Danish media reported in 2020 that the US National Security Agency had spied on world leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, using data from Danish internet cables under an agreement with Denmark’s secret services.

Frederiksen then told various Danish media that Denmark had entered into the partnership under US President Bill Clinton. “Now I have to be careful about what I say, otherwise I dare to go to jail,” he told TV2 last December.

Defense Minister Trine Bramsen suspended Findsen from service in 2020 after the Danish Inspectorate of Intelligence Services found his agency withheld information from the regulator. Frederiksen criticized the decision, arguing it would damage American confidence in Danish intelligence.

Jacob Kaarsbo, a former Danish intelligence officer, tell TV2: “The more times the leaked information is repeated, the worse it is. It is very damaging the more people help to confirm details of the cooperation between the USA and Denmark. “

Danish media also carried other stories that used leaked information, including how a Danish citizen convicted of joining Isis in Syria claimed to be an agent of the intelligence services; and how the government did not listen to security services’ assessment of the risks of leaving Danish women and children in Syrian refugee camps.

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