Danish MPs block charging of ex-minister in state secrets case - justice minister

FILE PHOTO: Denmark’s Defence Minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen speaks during a press conference after the official ceremony welcoming the deployment of a multi-national NATO battalion in Tapa, Estonia, April 20, 2017. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Denmark's justice minister said on Thursday it would not be possible to charge a former defence minister with leaking state secrets after several political parties and independent lawmakers pledged to oppose lifting his parliamentary immunity.

Parties and independent MPs who together make up a majority in the assembly have in recent days declared their objection to waiving Claus Hjort Frederiksen's immunity - a protection against legal prosecution granted to lawmakers.

The decision by Justice Minister Mattias Tesfaye followed discussions among members of parliament this week on whether or not to lift the immunity of Frederiksen, a former defence minister who remains a member of parliament, in order to allow the public prosecutor to formally charge him.

The precise charges have not been made public, but Frederiksen has 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).

"Earlier today, I noted that there is not a majority in parliament in favour of waiving (Frederiksen's) immunity," Tesfaye told a parliamentary hearing.

"It will therefore not be possible to bring charges in the case at this time, and I will inform the public prosecutor as soon as possible, who must then decide what to do next."

Frederiksen, who served as defence minister between 2016 and 2019, said in January he had been preliminarily charged with violating a section of the penal code, which includes treason for leaking state secrets.

Frederiksen did not immediately reply to a request for comment from Reuters.

(Reporting by Nikolaj Skydsgaard, Editing by William Maclean)

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