A Norwegian appeals court ruled this week that a 51-year-old Russian man must be kept in custody while police investigate spying charges against him. The probability that he cooperated with others means that he must remain jailed, according to the court.
Judges at the appeals court (Borgarting lagmannsrett) pointed to a danger that defendant Mikhail Botsjkarev would try to influence people Norwegian police intend to question.
Botsjkarev was arrested at Oslo’s main airport at Gardermoen Friday night after he’d attended a two-day seminar at the Norwegian Parliament in Oslo. Police had been summoned to the Parliament after Botsjkarev reportedly had “behaved strangely” and raised the suspicions of Parliament employees. He’s suspected of having planted electronic surveillance equipment or listening devices, and authorities have decided to replace several printers and mobile telephones.
Norway’s police intelligence agency PST also suspects that the Russian may have gathered information off the Parliament’s wireless network. Both Botsjkarev and Russian officials have firmly denied any espionage and accuse the Norwegians of “spy hysteria.” They delivered a strong protest to Norway’s ambassador in Moscow over Botsjkarev’s arrest and imprisonment.
It’s the first time in modern history that a Russian citizen has been arrested in Norway on charges of espionage.