Norway ex-minister’s partner on trial for fake threats

Norway ex-minister's partner on trial for fake threats
Former Norwegian justice minister Tor Mikkel Wara and Prime Minister Erna Solberg at a 2019 press briefing. Photo: AFP
The partner of Norway's former justice minister, a member of a right-wing anti-immigration party, went on trial on Tuesday accused of staging attacks against the couple and blaming an anti-racist theatre troupe.

In the extraordinary case, Laila Anita Bertheussen is accused of vandalising her own family home and threatening her family on several occasions, making it appear as though the Black Box theatre group was to blame.

In December 2018, Bertheussen filed a complaint against Black Box for showing pictures of the homes of several politicians — including theirs — as part of a play aimed at demonstrating who was profiting from a more segregated and racist Norway.

Around the same time a series of attacks began against the couple.

Among other things, their home was vandalised in December 2018. A swastika and the word “racist” were drawn on their house and car, and the vehicle was set ablaze outside the building in mid-March.

Police later concluded that Bertheussen was responsible for those acts and for sending a threatening letter to another couple in the Progress Party.

Bertheussen faces up to 16 years in prison if found guilty of attacks against democracy.

On the first day of her trial in an Oslo court, the 55-year-old pleaded innocent.

“The goal was to make believe that someone from the play or who sympathises with it was behind these acts,” prosecutor Marit Formo argued Tuesday.

The scandal prompted Bertheussen's partner, Tor Mikkel Wara of the populist Progress Party, to resign as justice minister in March 2019. He is due to testify in the case.

The unusual scandal has garnered broad attention in Norway and the trial was broadcast live on the main television channels.

Norway's conservative prime minister Erna Solberg was herself accused of trying to curb freedom of expression at the time of the vandalism, when she blamed the theatre troupe for contributing to a tougher climate for politicians in Norway.

The trial is scheduled to last nine weeks.

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