Finland's first female PM in court over secrets leak

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The Independent Online

Last April Anneli Jaatteenmaki became Finland's first woman prime minister. Two months later she became the country's shortest-serving prime minister. And yesterday she was in court, charged with leaking official secrets.

Ms Jaatteenmaki defeated Paavo Lipponen in the run-up to the Iraq war by revealing his talks with President George Bush, whose crusade to oust Saddam Hussein was highly unpopular in Finland. Mr Bush thanked Mr Lipponen for his support before the war, seriously damaging him with voters, especially after his opponent accused him of compromising Finnish neutrality. The issue gave her Green party a narrow lead over Mr Lipponen's Social Democrats, enabling it to form a governing coalition.

Ms Jaatteenmaki is charged with inciting or assisting the breach of official secrets by obtaining information from a presidential aide, Martti Manninen, who is also on trial. They do not face jail, but even a fine will be highly damaging in a country which is the least corrupt in the world, according to Transparency International.

Ms Jaatteenmaki published excerpts of Mr Lipponen's talks with MrBush on her website, and parts were leaked to newspapers. She said the secret documents had been faxed to her unsolicited but Mr Manninen accused her of lying, saying she had pressed him for documents. Ms Jaatteenmaki was forced to resign in June last year andPresident Tarja Halonen sacked Mr Manninen a day later.

The hearing is expected to end tomorrow, with the verdict likely in about two weeks.