Photographic evidence against one of Norway’s most famous espionage defendants ever, Arne Treholt, was fabricated, claim authors of a new book on the case. Investigators involved in the Treholt case scoff at the claims, while his former prosecutor and current intelligence officials say they’re taking them seriously.
Treholt, who was a longtime Labour Party politician and trusted diplomat when he was arrested in 1984, has always denied charges he spied for the former Soviet Union and Iraq. He was convicted, though, of high treason and espionage and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Treholt, now age 67, was pardoned for health reasons by Gro Harlem Brundtland’s Labour Party government, and officially by King Harald V, in 1992. He moved to Russia and later to Cyprus, but continued efforts to clear his name.
Now he tells newspaper Aftenposten that he’s happy about documentation presented in the new book being released on Thursday, but won’t get his hopes up even though he calls the documentation “convincing.”
It suggests that Norwegian surveillance police fabricated a critical photo of cash in a briefcase allegedly found in Treholt’s apartment before his arrest. The cash was presented as evidence that Treholt was being paid for information he was handing over to Soviet officials.
Authors Geir Selvik Malthe-Sørenssen and Kjetil Bortelid Mæland claim the photo was taken after Treholt’s arrest, probably in the investigators’ own offices at the Grønland police station in Oslo. Closer examination of the photo of the briefcase, they say, reveals the remnants of tape on the briefcase that are not found on photos of the same briefcase taken before Treholt’s arrest.
“That makes the photo, as evidence, invalid,” Malthe-Sørenssen told Aftenposten.
Treholt’s defense attorney Harald Stabell, who claims the photos of the money played a key role in Treholt’s conviction, is already calling for the case to be re-opened. Lasse Qvigstad, who prosecuted Treholt, said he now needs to read the new book (entitled Forfalskning – Politiets løgn i Treholt-saken, or “Falsification – The police’s lie in the Treholt case”) and examine the claims before deciding how they may be followed up.
Jostein Erstad, who led the Treholt investigation, called the claims “tull” (nonsense) and denied the police altered any evidence in the case.
“It can be proved that the money was there,” Erstad told Aftenposten. “This was real and put forward as fundamental evidence and the court accepted that. The court was never in any doubt about that.”