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2 Danes May Be Jailed for Reports on Iraq Arms

April 28, 2006|From the Associated Press

COPENHAGEN — Two reporters at one of Denmark's largest newspapers could face jail time for publishing classified intelligence reports about Iraq's weapons program, a prosecutor said Thursday.

Michael Bjerre and Jesper Larsen of the Berlingske Tidende newspaper were charged Wednesday with publishing confidential government documents, state prosecutor Karsten Hjorth said. If convicted, they could be fined or sentenced to as much as two years in prison.

No trial date was set.

In February and March 2004, Bjerre and Larsen wrote a series of articles based on leaked reports from the Danish Defense Intelligence Service. The reports said there was no evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction during Saddam Hussein's rule -- one of the main reasons given by the Bush administration for the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

Editor in Chief Niels Lunde said the Berlingske Tidende and its reporters acted correctly.

"Jesper Larsen and Michael Bjerre have carried out a precious piece of work," Lunde said in a statement.

Former intelligence officer Frank Grevil was convicted in late 2004 of leaking the documents to the reporters and was sentenced to four months in prison. During trial, he said he acted in the public interest.

In October 2002, Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen told parliament that Denmark's government was convinced that Hussein had illicit weapons.

However, Fogh Rasmussen has said Denmark backed the invasion of Iraq and contributed troops because Hussein refused to cooperate with the United Nations, not because of any weapons. Denmark has about 530 soldiers in Iraq.

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