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Denmark’s ex-spy chief wins appeal of pre-trial detention

February 17, 2022 GMT
FILE - Lars Findsen, head of the foreign intelligence service, known as FE, speaks during the Defense Intelligence Service's publication of the annual report 'Intelligence Risk Assessment' at Kastellet in Copenhagen, Dec. 19, 2017. An appeals court in Denmark on Thursday Feb. 17, 2022 ordered the release of the country's former chief of foreign intelligence, who had been held in pre-trial custody on a preliminary charge of “disclosing highly classified information.”  (Liselotte Sabroe/Ritzau Scanpix via AP, File)
FILE - Lars Findsen, head of the foreign intelligence service, known as FE, speaks during the Defense Intelligence Service's publication of the annual report 'Intelligence Risk Assessment' at Kastellet in Copenhagen, Dec. 19, 2017. An appeals court in Denmark on Thursday Feb. 17, 2022 ordered the release of the country's former chief of foreign intelligence, who had been held in pre-trial custody on a preliminary charge of “disclosing highly classified information.” (Liselotte Sabroe/Ritzau Scanpix via AP, File)
FILE - Lars Findsen, head of the foreign intelligence service, known as FE, speaks during the Defense Intelligence Service's publication of the annual report 'Intelligence Risk Assessment' at Kastellet in Copenhagen, Dec. 19, 2017. An appeals court in Denmark on Thursday Feb. 17, 2022 ordered the release of the country's former chief of foreign intelligence, who had been held in pre-trial custody on a preliminary charge of “disclosing highly classified information.” (Liselotte Sabroe/Ritzau Scanpix via AP, File)

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — An appeals court in Denmark on Thursday ordered the release of the country’s former chief of foreign intelligence, who had been held in pre-trial custody on a preliminary charge of “disclosing highly classified information.”

The Court of Appeal of Eastern Denmark said in a statement that while there was “a well-founded suspicion” Lars Findsen had violated Danish law by disclosing intelligence information, it “didn’t find that the conditions for a pre-trial detention are met.”

Details of the allegations against Findsen, 57, are unknown, and the case has been shrouded in secrecy. Danish media have speculated that being too open with journalists may have contributed to his legal troubles.

Findsen has maintained he is innocent of releasing information improperly.

Findsen first headed the domestic security service, known by its Danish acronym PET, from 2002 to 2007. He led the foreign intelligence service, known as FE, from 2015 until he was suspended in August 2020.

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The suspension came after an independent watchdog heavily criticized the spy agency for deliberately withholding information and for violating Danish laws.

After he was detained in December along with four other suspects from Denmark’s intelligence agencies, the Copenhagen District Court ordered Findsen to remain in pre-trial custody until March 3. He appealed the order during a closed-door hearing this week.

In Denmark, preliminary charges are one step short of formal charges but allow authorities to keep criminal suspects in custody during an investigation.

If found guilty of disclosing highly sensitive intelligence information, Findsen faces up to 12 years in prison.

He told the BT newspaper Thursday that he was “of course happy and grateful for the decision” to release him. He said he was arrested Dec. 8 at the Copenhagen airport on his way home from work elsewhere in Europe.

“Now my focus is on getting all the way home,” he said.

A former defense minister, Claus Hjort Frederiksen, who has not been arrested, has said he also is considered a suspect for leaking classified information in what could be the same case. Authorities have not released any information publicly about Hjort Frederiksen being under investigation.