Norway ex-minister's partner found guilty of making threats against democracy

The arrest of Laila Bertheussen triggered the resignation of her partner, former Justice Minister Tor Mikkel Wara (above). PHOTO: REUTERS

OSLO (REUTERS) - The partner of Norway's former justice minister was found guilty of threatening democracy and sentenced to 20 months in prison on Friday (Jan 15) in a case involving faked attacks on her family home and the torching of her car.

Laila Anita Bertheussen, 56, had pleaded not guilty to all charges and rejected the prosecution's claim that she had sought to generate sympathy for the family by blaming an anti-racist theatre group for the incidents.

"We are in no doubt that the case was thoroughly investigated," Oslo district court judge Yngvild Thue said in reading the unanimous verdict in a case that has gripped the nation.

Bertheussen was arrested by police in 2019, triggering the resignation of her partner, then Justice Minister Tor Mikkel Wara of the law-and-order Progress Party.

Before the arrest, Bertheussen had said a theatre production in Oslo, which was critical of Mr Wara, posed a threat by showing images of the house.

When their home was later daubed with graffiti, including a swastika, and her car set ablaze, Bertheussen said her view was vindicated.

But police believed she had staged the attacks herself, using a flammable liquid to set fire to the car and disconnecting a surveillance camera.

In addition to arson and vandalism, Bertheussen was convicted under section 115 of Norway's criminal code, which prohibits attacks or threats against members of government. The court sentenced her to 20 months in prison. It was not clear if she would appeal.

Mr Wara, who prior to the arrest had called the attacks a threat to democracy, told the trial he believed his partner was innocent.

Adding to the mystery, anonymous letters claiming responsibility for the attacks were postmarked at times when Bertheussen was abroad or otherwise unable to have mailed them.

Police said the letters could point to an accomplice, while the defence said it cast doubt on the case. A threatening letter was also sent to another minister in the Cabinet, Ms Ingvil Smines Tybring-Gjedde.

Oslo's Black Box theatre said its performance, called "Ways of Seeing", was exercising freedom of expression by exposing right-wing political networks.

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