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Sunday, June 16, 2024

Ex-justice minister’s partner faces jail

Prosecutors are asking the Oslo County Court to sentence Laila Anita Bertheussen, live-in partner of former justice minister Tor Mikkel Wara, to two years in prison. They contend, after her lengthy trial ended this week, that she orchestrated a long string of threats against Wara and their own home.

Prosecutors think Bertheussen was motivated by her anger over a local theater production that she claimed had made the couple look like racists. Wara had been a long-time member of the right-wing Progress Party, which is best known for its anti-immigration policy.

The threats prosecutors believe she was behind included vandalism to their car and home, at least one case of alleged arson and threatening letters sent both to them and another couple active in the Progress Party. They occurred over a period of four months, from December 2018 to March 2019, when investigators from the police and intelligence agency PST tied her to them all. Wara himself wasn’t aware that she also had a series of criminal convictions for fraud in the 1980s.

The threats were taken very seriously since Wara was justice minister at the time, and Wara (before his partner was charged) himself claimed they represented not only a threat to him but to Norway’s democracy. Both he and the government were stunned when Bertheussen was arrested and charged, and he has supported her since. He also had to immediately resign as justice minister and has returned to his job at the prominent communications and lobbying bureau First House.

“This has been very difficult for Wara,” chief prosecutor Frederik Ranke stated in court during his closing arguments. “His partner is indicted on very serious charges, he’s been in an impossible squeeze.”

Bertheussen continues to claim innocence and her defense team pointed out that prosecutors lack hard evidence against her. They succeeded, however, in building a case against her by noting such things as how only someone within their home could have turned off surveillance cameras, or opened doors just before vandalism occured in the middle of the night. They also note how she continually resisted all the extra security measures that were carried out at the couple’s home. Police have no other suspects after a lengthy investigation.

A verdict is expected by mid-December. staff



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