Denmark's Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen does not believe the arrest of the country's former top intelligence chief will harm the Danish intelligence service’s contacts with foreign partners, she said on Wednesday.
Lars Findsen, 52, was the head of two of Denmark's intelligence agencies and is one of four agents who were arrested in December on suspicion of “disclosing highly classified information from the intelligence services.”
News of the detention sparked speculation that it may harm relationships between Denmark’s two intelligence agencies and its foreign partners, but Ms Frederiksen said she was “also very sure that the co-operation that we are very dependent on with our allies … still can expand.”
She called it “a very serious case” and that it was something that “we absolutely would have preferred to be without.”
Mr Findsen's detention was only made public on Monday in a closed-door hearing in Copenhagen Magistrates’ Court after a publication ban was lifted.
“I want the charges brought forward and I plead not guilty. This is completely insane,” he told local reporters.
The only one of the four to be held in custody, he has been in jail for a month.
He denies all of the charges against him, his lawyers say.
The Danish Security and Intelligence Service, the country’s domestic intelligence agency, said the charges were brought after a “long investigation of leaks”.
In December, Danish officials said that four people, all serving or former agents of the country’s domestic and foreign intelligence agencies, had been arrested.
It did not identify those arrested, or explain the nature of the offences being investigated.
The case is thought to relate to allegations that Denmark’s foreign intelligence agency, the Danish Defence Intelligence Service, colluded with the US National Security Agency to spy on the leaders of EU member states.
That the US had spied on its allies came to light in 2013.
Last year, a team of journalists from several European organisations reported that Denmark’s secret service had helped the NSA to spy on heads of state, including former German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The other three agents have not been identified and they are not in custody, Denmark’s public broadcaster, DR, reported.
It said that Mr Findsen had been arrested at Copenhagen airport on December 8.
Mr Findsen will remain in custody until next month, when another closed-door hearing will be held, his lawyer, Lars Kjeldsen, said.
The charges relate to “disclosing state secrets,” an offence that could carry a 12-year prison sentence.
Danish politicians have been critical of the lack of transparency surrounding the case. A former head of the domestic intelligence agency, Hans Jorgen Bonnichsen, told DR the case was a tragedy and the authorities had overreacted.
Mr Findsen led the Danish Defence Intelligence Service for 20 years.
He was the chief of the Police Intelligence Service between 2002 and 2007 before running a department at the Ministry of Defence.
Mr Findsen led the DDIS from 2015 until 2020, when he was suspended pending an investigation into whether his agency had broken the law and misled the country’s intelligence watchdog over allegations it was spying on its citizens.
The case was investigated by a commission which rejected the allegations and cleared Mr Findsen.
His suspension was lifted, but further investigations by the media led to the revelations of Denmark’s alleged role in helping the US to spy on EU leaders.