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Saturday, May 18, 2024

Ex-justice minister’s partner indicted

Norway’s Director of Public Prosecution (Riksadvokaten) has indicted the long-time live-in partner of the Progress Party’s former justice minister, Tor Mikkel Wara, over what it calls an “attack on democracy.” She’s charged with staging a series of threatening events against their own home in Oslo, allegedly to make it look like they were under attack themselves.

Norway’s police intelligence unit PST (Politiets Sikkerhetstjenesten) has been behind the investigation into alleged attack on the former justice minister’s home and thus on the country’s democracy. PHOTO: PST

The defense attorney for Wara’s partner, Laila Anita Bertheussen, immediately played down the indictment, telling state broadcaster NRK that “there’s nothing new in the case,” rather just a “collection” of earlier “indications” pointing to her guilt.

“She denies she has done this and we believe the indictment is poorly founded,” John Christian Elden, who often represents defendants in high profile cases, told NRK. “But she looks forward to the case coming up in court and for all the evidence to be presented, so that everyone can evaluate this.”

The bizarre case began in late 2018. Police were summoned to the home of Wara and Bertheussen on a variety of occasions that were viewed as “extremely serious” because they involved a top public officials. Wara was widely viewed as under threats that sparked public sympathy and alarm.

The first threat came on December 6, when Wara’s and Bertheussen’s home was tagged and it appeared someone tried set fire to a family car parked outside the home. The tagging included a spraypainted swastika and the word “rasisit,” a misspelling of the Norwegian word for “racist.”

That was followed in January with a fire started in a nearby garbage container, in February with another apparent attack on their car, in March with the receipt of a threatening letter and then another attempted car fire. It all added up to what appeared to be threats made against the couple by someone accusing them of being racists or even neo-Nazis.

Tor Mikkel Wara was one of the Progress Party’s more moderate politicians who’d had a falling out with former right-wing party leader Carl I Hagen but recently returned to the top ranks to serve as current party leader Siv Jensen’s justice minister. He resigned after his live-in partner was first charged with being behind a series of threatening incidents at their home. PHOTO: Statsministerens kontor

Wara is a veteran of Norway’s most right-wing party in Parliament, the Progress Party, which just withdrew from Norway’s conservative government coalition earlier this week. Wara was serving as justice minister for Progress when the alleged threats began against his home, not long after Bertheussen had become enraged over a local theater production that targeted right-wing leaders and included some video footage of the couple’s home. Bertheussen strongly objected to the play and had claimed it put her family in danger.

Wara quickly resigned his post as justice minister after an investigation by Norway’s police intelligence unit PST concluded that his own partner, Bertheussen, was behind all the alleged threats. She was initially arrested in mid-March of last year but has not been held in police custody. PST initially charged her with having set fire to the couple’s car but then expanded the charges to include all the threatening incidents at their home. After lengthy review by the state prosecutor’s office that included another round at PST, she’s now under indictment.

Bertheussen has strongly denied the charges against her, claiming on social media earlier this week that “PST was supposed to protect us, and failed. PST was supposed to find those who did this, and failed. Now PST wants to “hang” me on the basis of foolish generic indications. I hope they fail.” A court date for her trial was pending. Berglund



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