Treholt open hearings request fails

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The Norwegian Criminal Cases Review Commission has rejected calls to hold an open hearing of experts as part of its deliberations over whether to re-open the nearly 30-year-old spying case of Arne Treholt, despite demands from Treholt’s lawyer.

Treholt was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 1985 for spying for the Soviet Union and Iraq. The potential reopening of the case hinges on whether evidence that Treholt had a suitcase full of money in his home was tampered with or not. The defense and a number of research organizations claim that photographs taken of the suitcase before his arrest and the search did not have a piece of tape on it, while tape was present in pictures afterwards, suggesting that evidence had been falsified.

More witnesses to come
Helen Sæter, the leader of the commission, told newspaper Aftenposten that she and her colleagues “have written statements from photo-technical experts that are sufficient to shed light on the issue for us.” However, she also confirmed that the commission “is going to go through some further examinations of witnesses according to Stabell’s wishes.”

Treholt’s lawyer, Harald Stabell, asked in March that the commission bring together the four relevant experts on the evidence for an open hearing. The commission has held such public hearings only once before, during a case in 2006. The commission had already refused to interview (Politiets overvåkningstjeneste, POT) witnesses in public, for which it received much criticism. Sæter explained that the commission felt this was the best way to ensure that POT officials would speak freely.

“I understand the need and desire for openness in this case,” Sæter continued. She noted that the media wanted access to a number of different kinds of material, including photographic evidence related to the case, and said that they “are prepared to meet them highway.” Nonetheless, a court case has been launched by a coalition of media representatives and newspapers in order to gain access to key documents and sound recordings from the state.

Evidence ‘fabricated’
The commission is coming to end of its deliberations on whether to reopen the Treholt case, which began last year after a book and a former police officer came forward with claims that key evidence used to convict the alleged spy had been fabricated.

A number have reports have been done on the photographic evidence of the suitcase before Treholt’s arrest, which appeared to show no tape. The Swedish National Laboratory of Forensic Science (SKL) and the Danish police force both reported that the tape may not have been seen because the case was held the “wrong way,” although this conclusion was not put forward as a firm opinion. Two British research units, LGC Forensics and Berkeley Security Bureau Forensic (BSB), were asked to examine the evidence by the defense, and both agreed that the case could not have been held the wrong way. LGC also strongly criticized the conduct of the reports by the SKL and the Danish authorities.

The commission hopes to make up its mind before the summer, but their discussions could take longer, depending on how many further witness examinations take place and what information comes forward in these meetings. The witnesses will mainly come from the police surveillance services POT and the Police Security Service (Politiets sikkerhetstjeneste, PST). The commission has already heard from 23 witnesses, with their combined testimonies amounting to 52 hours.

Views and News from Norway/Aled-Dilwyn Fisher
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