Denmark prosecutors on Wednesday said they were abandoning a case against an ex-minister and a former intelligence chief for allegedly revealing state secrets because key evidence was classified and could not be presented in court.
In May 2021, an investigation by several Danish media outlets revealed that the US National Security Agency (NSA) used Danish underwater cables to spy on officials in France, Germany, Norway and Sweden until at least 2014.
Former German chancellor Angela Merkel was among the NSA’s targets.
The revelations sparked an international scandal and the four countries demanded explanations from Washington and Copenhagen.
Claus Hjort Frederiksen, who was defence minister between 2016 and 2019, and Lars Findsen, head of the Danish Defence Intelligence Service from 2015 to 2020, had faced charges as part of ensuing probes.
In October, the country’s supreme court ruled that the case against them, which was due to be brought to trial in the coming weeks, could not be held entirely behind closed doors.
Prosecutors argued that a public trial risked exposing state secrets.
On Wednesday, the prosecutor’s office said that it had “called off the proceedings against Lars Findsen and Claus Hjort Frederiksen” because the Danish military intelligence service “no longer considers it prudent to make available to the courts the highly classified information on which the case is based”.
Without these elements the case against the defendants becomes null and void, it said.
“That essential evidence cannot be disclosed is a problem, but given the circumstances it cannot be otherwise,” Prosecutor General Jan Reckendorff was quoted as saying in the statement.
He warned that “if the law cannot be enforced, this ultimately means that we in Denmark could find ourselves without recourse to criminal defence against violations of the country’s most confidential information”.
Former intelligence chief Findsen was accused of having revealed state secrets and other confidential information to six people, including two journalists, during a period of 16-17 months following his suspension from duty in 2020.
In a book that he published on the affair, Findsen said that the case was politically motivated with the aim of removing him from his post.
Former defence minister Hjort Frederiksen was charged with leaking state secrets, accusations that he denied.