Norway: Minister suspended upon her partner arrest on arson charges

Norway’s Justice Minister Tor Mikkel Wara has been temporarily suspended of his duties on Thursday. The temporary suspension is a follow-up development of the arrest of the minister’s partner.

The minister’s partner, Laila Anita Bertheussen was arrested by Norway’s security agency (PST) on account of five recent assaults at the minister’s house. The partner is only tied so far to the 10 March arson of the minster’s car and house but follow-up interrogations will examine her role in previous incidents as well. Mrs. Bertheussen may face financial penalties and a year imprisonment in case present charges are verified. PST Head Benedicte Bjornland admitted that it is ‘too early to speculate on motives’ behind the 10 March incident.

The five incidents originated on 6 December 2018 when the minister’s house and car were first vandalised, sprayed with the word racist. Additional assaults against the ministerial property occurred in January and February. In March incidents intensified with two events recorded in the first sixteen days. The PST had been publicly denounced for allowing a series of repeated crimes to occur in the minister’s premises – incidents which upset the Norwegian political environment and increased fear of politicians about their personal and family security.

Interestingly, Mr. Wara is member of the populist Progressive Party, and opponents characterise him mostly as a moderate politician. For her part, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Soldberg argued about the incident that ‘this information came as a shock to me and to the entire government…This is a tragedy for Wara and his family.’

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