Danes who published secret Iraq intel reports to be sentenced

By The Associated Press


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A verdict was expected Monday in the trial of three Danish journalists accused of publishing classified intelligence reports about Iraq's former weapons program.

Niels Lunde, chief editor of the Berlingske Tidende newspaper, and reporters Michael Bjerre and Jesper Larsen, were tried on charges of publishing confidential Danish government documents, an offense punishable by fines or up to two years in prison.

Based on the leaked documents, the newspaper published a series of articles, in February and March 2004, that said there was no evidence Iraq had weapons of mass destruction during Saddam Hussein's rule - one of the main reasons cited for the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

A former Danish intelligence officer has been sentenced to prison for leaking the documents in the case, viewed in Denmark as a landmark test of media freedom.

"If a conviction should happen, it would move the freedom of press in the
wrong direction," Mogens Blicher Bjerregaard, president of the Danish Union of Journalists said before the verdict.

During the trial, which began Nov. 13, Prosecutor Michael Joergensen told the Copenhagen City Court that the newspaper, one of Denmark's largest, violated a law that prohibits media from publishing classified information that could harm national security.

Joergensen recommended the three each get four months in prison - the same sentence as former intelligence officer Frank Grevil, who was convicted last year of leaking the documents to the reporters.

Defense lawyers said their clients had done nothing wrong, and that they had acted in the public interest. The defense also noted that the Danish Defense Intelligence Service did not attempt to stop the newspaper from printing articles based on the leaked reports.