Thursday, April 27, 2006

Danish reporters charged after publishing leaked intelligence reports on Iraq

COPENHAGEN, Denmark -- Two reporters at one of Denmark's largest newspapers could face jail time for publishing classified intelligence reports about Iraq's weapons program, a prosecutor said Thursday.

Michael Bjerre and Jesper Larsen, of the Berlingske Tidene newspaper, were charged Wednesday with publishing confidential government documents, which is punishable by fines or up to two years in prison, state prosecutor Karsten Hjorth said. No trial date has been set.

In February and March 2004, Bjerre and Larsen wrote a series of articles based on leaked reports from the Danish Defense Intelligence Service. The reports said there was no evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction during Saddam Hussein's rule -- one of the main reasons behind the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

Editor-in-chief Niels Lunde said the Berlingske Tidende and its reporters had acted correctly.

"Jesper Larsen and Michael Bjerre have carried out a precious piece of work," Lunde said in a statement.

Former intelligence officer Frank Grevil was convicted last year of leaking the documents to the reporters, and sentenced to four months in prison. During his trial, he claimed he was acting in the public interest.

In October 2002, Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen told Parliament that Denmark's government was convinced that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction.

However, Fogh Rasmussen said Denmark backed the invasion of Iraq and contributed troops because Saddam refused to cooperate with the United Nations, not because of WMDs. Denmark has some 530 soldiers in southern Iraq. (AP)



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