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Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Diplomat expelled in spying case

The Norwegian government has asked a diplomat at the Embassy of Sudan in Oslo to leave Norway as soon as possible, after police linked the diplomat to a man arrested earlier in the day for spying on refugees from Sudan in Norway. Sudan’s ambassador denies the embassy was involved in the alleged refugee spying.

Officials at Norway’s police intelligence unit PST (Politiets sikkerhetstjeneste) revealed more details about the man they arrested in Trondheim early Tuesday morning. He’s said to be 38 years old, emigrated to Norway in 2004, received permanent residence permission (oppholdstillatelse) in Norway and has a full-time job.

Pretended to be a refugee himself
PST investigators claim the man on several occasions and in secret collected information about fellow citizens of Sudan who fled the country as refugees. They believe he portrayed himself as a refugee, too, and used the guise to collect personal information on his alleged targets. In such spying cases, the information is believed used to undermine opposition to the government authorities of the countries involved, and threaten the refugees who fled their homeland regimes and/or their families back home.

The 38-year-old is charged with spying and believed to have passed on the information he gathered to government authorities in Sudan, through the employee at Sudan’s embassy who’s now been asked to leave Norway. The so-called “contact person” at the embassy has diplomatic immunity and can’t be charged in the case under Norwegian law.

Norway’s foreign ministry, however, formally requested that the Embassy of Sudan send the man back to Sudan. “We had a meeting today where we called in the Sudanese ambassador,” Kjetil Elsebutangen of the Norwegian Foreign Ministry told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “Our position is that the diplomat’s activities aren’t in line with his position as a diplomat. Therefore we have asked that he leave the country as soon as possible.”

The ambassador of Sudan denied the authorities in Sudan are involved in spying on refugees. “What interest should we have in such information,” asked Ambassador Onoor Ahmed rhetorically of NRK. “Now we’re trying to find out who the arrested man is to find out if he needs our assistance.”

PST officials said the man has not admitted guilt but had so far not asked for an attorney.

Norway heavily involved in Sudan and Southern Sudan
The spying case broke less than two weeks after authorities in the war-torn countries of Sudan and Southern Sudan came to terms on an agreement that will allow resumption of oil exports from Southern Sudan through Sudan. Norwegian officials were heavily involved in peace talks between the countries and in hammering out the new oil agreement. Southern Sudan formally seceded from Sudan last year after a long and bloody civil war. The battle over oil resources was a central issue in the conflict.

Professor Kalle Moene at the University of Oslo told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) last week that Norway played an important role in the peace negotiations between Sudan and Southern Sudan and financed the talks as well. The UN’s Special Envoy Hilde Frafjord Johnson, also a Norwegian, has been heavily involved for years as have former government minister for foreign aid Erik Solheim and the current development minister, Heikki Holmås. Norway’s involvement may help explain the current reaction to the alleged spying.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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