A state commission charged with investigating illegal surveillance in Norway has confirmed that the Oslo home of convicted spy Arne Treholt was under illegal surveillance for two years before his arrest in 1984. That’s set off more questions, as to why the commission didn’t reveal the surveillance earlier.
A member of the so-called Lund Commission, lawyer Regine Ramm Bjerke, issued a press release on behalf of the commission late Monday evening. It stated that the commission’s leader, Ketil Lund, had concluded that it was “correct” to inform all parties in the Treholt spying case that the commission “had been made aware” that the special police unit POT at the time had conducted video surveillance of Treholt’s flat in Oslo’s fashionable Frogner district.
Justice Minister Knut Storberget was among those wondering on Tuesday why the commission, active in the mid-1990s, had waited so long to reveal the surveillance. Treholt himself had asked for his case to be taken up again in 2005, but the commission said nothing at that time.
“I know that the Lund Commission in its own report describes other types of illegal investigation of Treholt,” Storberget told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Tuesday. “So this is a question that arises.”
The Treholt case, Norway’s biggest spy drama ever, exploded in Norwegian media again earlier this month when new reports emerged that evidence against Treholt was fabricated and that he’d been subject to illegal surveillance. Treholt was a high-ranking diplomat when he was arrested on charges of spying for the former Soviet Union and Iraq. He was convicted of high treason and sentenced to 20 years in jail, but pardoned for health reasons in 1992.
He keeps trying to clear his name, however, and now officials on all sides are basically calling for a probe into how Treholt’s case was conducted 25 years ago. At stake, they claim, is the integrity of the Norwegian legal system.
Last week another state commission agreed to review Treholt’s case once again. Former police investigators at the time continue to deny that evidence was fabricated, while former prosecutors maintain Treholt was correctly convicted. Prosecutor Lasse Qvigstad, for example, claimed Tuesday that neither he nor fellow prosecutor Tor-Aksel Busch were aware of the illegal surveillance when they took Treholt’s case to court in 1985. He contended confirmation of illegal surveillance has no bearing on the evidence.
A lot of prestige is riding on the case, however, and Treholt’s defense attorney Harald Stabell has been keen to have his client’s case re-opened. He told news bureau NTB that the Lund Commission “could have at least come forward with this information when the other commission handled Treholt’s request to re-open his case in 2005.” That request was turned down.