Denmark spy chief charged with leaking state secrets

Head of Denmark's foreign intelligence unit Lars Findsen speaks during the Defense Intelligence Service's publication of the annual report 'Intelligence Risk Assessment' at Kastellet in Copenhagen, Denmark, December 19, 2017. Picture taken December 19, 2017. Liselotte Sabroe/Ritzau Scanpix/via REUTERS

COPENHAGEN, Sept 16 (Reuters) - Denmark's state prosecutor said on Friday it had charged the suspended chief of the country's foreign intelligence unit with leaking highly classified information, the latest twist in a security scandal.

Lars Findsen, who has previously denied any wrongdoing, was accused of passing state secrets to six people including two journalists over the course of 16-17 months, the prosecutor's office said.

In January, former defense minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen said he has been preliminarily charged under the same section of the law. read more

Lawmakers later declined to remove Frederiksen's parliamentary immunity and the case against him made no further progress. At the time he said he would never dream of doing anything that could harm Denmark or Denmark's interests. read more

The precise charges have not been made public, but Frederiksen suggested to local media they were based on public statements made by him about a secret surveillance agreement between Denmark and the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA). read more

On Friday, the prosecutor said Findsen could be sentenced to prison of up to four years under the charges, some of which belong to a section of the penal code which includes treason.

Findsen, who in January called the charges "completely insane", did not immediately comment on Friday and his lawyer only confirmed the charges. read more

He was arrested and suspended from duty in December last year along with three other current and former employees of the country's two intelligence agencies.

Findsen was released from custody in February. The others had been released earlier. read more

Most of the hearings linked to the cases have been heard behind closed doors. A court will decide whether that will continue in Findsen's prosecution, the prosecutor's office said.

Reporting by Nikolaj Skydsgaard and Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen, writing by Stine Jacobsen, editing by Terje Solsvik and Andrew Heavens

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