Politician resigns after spreading porn

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UPDATED: Just as Norway’s Conservative Party (Høyre) was launching its election campaign over the weekend came news that one of its elected city council representatives had been caught stealing naked photos from young Norwegian girls’ Internet accounts and spreading them on a pornographic website. He resigned from his political posts under pressure on Monday, and prosecutors are now reviewing why police didn’t investigate the case against him earlier.

“I have, together with others in the party, had meetings with him and expressed how seriously we view this,” Jan Tore Sanner, deputy leader of Høyre, announced on the party’s own website Monday morning. “This is a thoughtless offense against vulnerable young people that is completely at odds with holding a position of public trust.”

Son of top Høyre officials
Sanner wrote that the Høyre politician, who initially wasn’t identified but later came forward himself, would also seek to be released from his elected office. Sanner said he was “a young man,” and that the party also wanted “to take care of him.”

Newspaper Drammens Tidende reported Monday that the 23-year-old Tor Johannes Helleland, identified as an adviser for Høyre on social media issues, admitted in a statement to his victims that he had wrongly  gained access to their private photos and “shared them,” adding that what he did was “unforgiveable.” Helleland has been a member of the city council in Drammen, Buskerud County, and apologized for the despair and damage he had caused for the women and their families.

Helleland is the son of Trond Helleland, a Member of Parliament for Høyre from Buskerud, and stepson of Linda H Helleland, Høyre’s spokeswoman on family issues. In a statement clearly directed at them, the younger Helleland wrote that “I’m also sorry for the burden I’ve put on those closest to me.” He said he would answer any questions the police may have.

The elder Helleland, who once had to apologize himself for playing war games during a session of parliament while his colleagues discussed the bombing of Iraq, said he and his son’s mother, Jannike Thorsen, were “shocked” over what their son had done, calling it “completely wrong.” Trond Helleland was recently elected as Høyre’s spokesman on transport issues, while Thorsen is also a member of the city council in Drammen, along with their son.

Police called in
Høyre officials had already contacted the police, according to Sanner, who’s a candidate for a government minister’s post himself since Høyre has been leading in public opinion polls.

The lack of involvement by the police has raised eyebrows itself, since newspaper VG reported on Saturday that they’d been provided with information about the case earlier this year but failed to act on it. VG reported that Einar Otto Stangvik, a 31-year-old computer expert who earlier has uncovered security flaws in public websites, told police about how the Høyre politician had gained access to the girls’ iCloud accounts and taken their photos, but police didn’t follow up.

Politicians from other parties, including Labour, have criticized the lack of police action and Høyre itself has now offered to share its information about the case with police. Norway’s state prosecutor (Riksadvokaten) has promised to pursue it.

Sanner of Høyre said that the party also wants to come in contact with their now-former colleague’s victims, to offer legal or other support to them, and called for others to come forward with any additional information they might have on the case. Sanner promised them the highest possibly degree of anonymity.

Case collided with campaign
The embarrassing case broke just as Høyre leader Erna Solberg was launching some early campaign activities along the West Coast and in her home district of Hordaland. Solberg, who also had asked the young man to resign, visited, among others, the home of Christian Democrats leader Knut Arild Hareide’s parents in Bømlo, south of Bergen, where Hareide’s mother served lunch.

Solberg has been courting Hareide’s party as a potential government coalition partner, and Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that Hareide now seems more inclined to accept an eventual ministerial post. He and Solberg continue to disagree, however, on some issues including the terms of paternity leave.

Solberg also made an appearance at the large annual Gla’ Mat food festival in Stavanger over the weekend, visited a care facility in Haugesund and spoke to residents of a nursing home on Karmøy. Solberg campaigned on promises of better roads, more money to bigger cities like Stavanger and “new solutions” for elder care.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund