A Moscow court has found a retired Norwegian border guard guilty of spying on Russian nuclear submarines and sentenced him to 14 years in prison on Tuesday.
Frode Berg, a 63-year-old former guard on the Norwegian-Russian border, was arrested in Moscow in December 2017 and tried behind closed doors this month. He pleaded not guilty to charges of espionage on behalf of Norway.
He will not appeal the verdict and plans to request a presidential pardon from Vladimir Putin that would see him freed, Ilya Novikov, his lawyer, said.
“Berg has no illusions, he accepted (the verdict) calmly. He expects his government to undertake diplomatic efforts,” Novikov said. “We see no practical use in appealing.”
Berg has admitted to acting several times as a courier for the Norwegian intelligence services but said he thought he was only carrying money.
A former Russian police officer was accused of handing Berg files on the Russian navy and given a 13-year prison term in December.
Berg’s case was raised during a meeting between Putin and Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg in Saint Petersburg last week.
When asked about the possibility of a pardon, Putin said: “We must wait for the court proceedings … We will take a look at what we can do with this depending on the court’s decision.”
Defence lawyer Novikov said that the fact that Putin spoke publicly about the case with the Norwegian prime minister was “probably a good sign” for his client.
“The question is how successful diplomatic efforts will be to secure his release,” Novikov said before the hearing.
State prosecutors had asked the court to jail Berg for 14 years. The maximum penalty for espionage is 20 years.
The verdict was read out in front of journalists in the Moscow court on Tuesday, the only time the case was open to the media.
NATO member Norway normally enjoys good relations with neighbouring Russia, with which it shares a short land border.
But relations have grown tense since 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea and a pro-Russian rebellion erupted in eastern Ukraine.