OSLO (Reuters) - The partner of Norway’s former justice minister pleaded not guilty in court on Tuesday to charges that she made up a series of threats against her family, in a case that has captivated the Nordic nation and cost the minister his job.
Laila Anita Bertheussen, 55, was arrested in March 2019, triggering the resignation shortly afterwards of then-Justice Minister Tor Mikkel Wara of Norway’s anti-immigrant Progress Party.
Prosecutors believe Bertheussen set fire to her family’s car, wrote threatening graffiti on their house and committed other acts of vandalism, with the purpose of generating public sympathy for herself and her partner.
In the months preceding the arrest, Bertheussen had said a play showing in Oslo, which was critical of Wara, posed a threat by showing images of the familiy’s house, triggering a brief police investigation at the time of the theatre group itself.
When their home was later vandalized, Bertheussen said this vindicated her view, although she was eventually accused in all the cases herself.
“It will be argued that it was the theatre play that drove the accused to commit these acts,” prosecutor Marit Formo told the court on the first day.
Threats were also sent to another government minister, leading to additional charges.
Standing upright throughout Tuesday’s court procedings, Bertheussen declared herself not guilty on each of the 15 counts she faces. If found guilty, she could face up to 16 years in prison.
The court case is scheduled to run until Nov. 13.
Reporting by Terje Solsvik; Editing by Angus MacSwan
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