Danish former minister charged with revealing state secrets

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — A Danish former defense minister who had publicly claimed that Denmark's secret service helped U.S. intelligence spy on several European leaders said Tuesday he has been charged with divulging state secrets.

Denmark’s prosecution authority said the country's justice minister has agreed to the recommendation that charges be brought against a former lawmaker, whom it did not name, for “divulging or passing on secrets of importance to the state.”

“The case includes highly classified information that cannot be presented openly,” prosecutor Jakob Berger Nielsen said in a statement. “Regardless of the great public interest, in the opinion of the public prosecutor’s office, there is clearly a heavier consideration to be given to the work of the intelligence service.”

Public DR broadcaster and other media named the suspect as Claus Hjort Frederiksen, a 75-year-old former defense minister who retired from politics last year. He later confirmed that on Facebook.

In several interviews in 2020 and 2021, Hjort Frederiksen 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. He later said he faced preliminary charges for revealing the secret cable cooperation with the U.S.

In an interview with DR in December 2021, Hjort Frederiksen said “I must risk a prison sentence” for making the allegations.

In 2022, the government asked lawmakers to remove the parliamentary immunity of Hjort Frederiksen but a majority opposed the move because it was not known what he was suspected of.

“I did not run again for the election (in late 2022) and my parliamentary immunity has thus lapsed,” Hjort Frederiksen wrote on his Facebook profile on Feb. 18. “So the path is clear for the justice minister to decide to follow the prosecution's recommendation to bring charges."

Hjort Frederiksen was defense minister from November 2016 to June 2019, and earlier held the finance and employment portfolios. For years, he was a senior member of the Liberal Party and left parliament in November to retire.

No trial date has been set.

The Associated Press