Photographs of 82 men that appear to be taken by the Norwegian police and would only be accessible to police officers have been published on an extreme Russian nationalist website, which claims that the men are anti-fascist activists and threatens violence against them.
The pictures, which have appeared during the past two weeks, are alleged to be of so called “blitzers,” members of a radical left-wing political milieu traditionally centered around the Blitzer House in Oslo, or antifascists. All of those pictured are young men who had previously been arrested. Such pictures are taken when people are arrested for crimes that can lead to imprisonment. The pictures are downloaded to a police database if the individual is charged or sentenced. This database is only accessible to police officers.
‘At least two come from the police’
The Russian website itself claims that the pictures were sent by a police officer. Under each picture, detailed personal information is listed, with threats to attack them using weapons such as bats. Many of those pictured now fear attacks from Russian or Norwegian extreme nationalists, and over 10 have told VG that they have no connection to the “blitzers” or the neo-Nazi movement. The pictures are all taken in profile except one, which shows part of a plaque that comes from Oslo police district.
Oslo police district confirmed on Monday that at least two pictures in the collection come from their registers. The police had earlier told the media that they did not think that those pictured were Norwegians. Officers reject the idea that the pictured individuals are anti-fascist activists.
“We are familiar with the established activist milieu in Norway and there is no-one known from that community in these pictures,” inspector Einar Aas informed newspaper VG. He suggested that “the original claims from the website are thus incorrect.” “We have no basis to believe that there is any danger for the security of those that are pictured,” he concluded. He later added that “several” of the pictures were “likely” to come from police systems.
A 20 year-old who is pictured told VG that his photograph, which is displayed on the website, comes from a time when he was arrested “around three years ago” after a fight. “I didn’t want this to come up,” said the man, who added that he “has now sharpened up” and has steady employment. He wished to remain anonymous in order to protect his family because the website claims to have addresses and other information on the pictured individuals.
The 20 year-old said that it “did not help” that the police had found out they were not part of the activist milieu because “it is still us that are pictured.” He went further, suggesting that he had “little faith that the police care” and added that “if it had been any of them in the pictures, it would have been a completely different issue.”
The police themselves have now sent the issue to the Norwegian Bureau for the Investigation of Police Affairs, which investigates alleged misconduct by police officers. Two of those pictured had already signalled their intention to VG to make contact with the bureau. A leader in the bureau, Liv Øyen, commented that while she “only knew about the case from the media,” that “if this turns out to be police photographs, it is very serious.” “It will be a part of our investigation to find out how this can have happened,” she added.
Police sources also suggest that contacts of Vyacheslav Datsik, a Russian neo-Nazi who was deported to Russia in March, could have been responsible. With a wide network of neo-Nazi contacts both in Russia and Norway, police sources claimed that a friend of Datsik’s could have forwarded the photographs to the website. This is rejected by Datsik’s Norwegian lawyer, Fridtjof Feydt, who told newspaper VG that “it can be ruled out that Datsik himself has had anything to do with this, since he had been partially isolated for the last few months.” Feydt added that “it is also unlikely that his circle of contacts, who are not actually the police’s best friends, has had access to the police register.”