Faulty sat nav caused major police operation in Danish village

Armed police, a helicopter and a drone were sent to a small town on the island of Funen in September by a stray satellite navigation signal.

Faulty sat nav caused major police operation in Danish village
Police in Espe, Funen on September 28th. Photo: Sophia Juliane Lydolph/Ritzau Scanpix

A major police search in September temporarily closed off parts of the country, with bridges and roads closed.

Faulty sat nav equipment in a Volvo that was the subject of the police search directed officers to Espe, a village with 500 inhabitants 25km south of Odense, police confirmed in a press statement on Monday.

Police were dispatched to the village in large numbers during the operation.

“The police operation in Espe took place on the basis of information suggesting the car was in this town,” Copenhagen Police said in the statement.

“This subsequently proved to be incorrect information resulting from a fault with the car’s antenna, which affected its sat nav equipment. We can now state that the car was never in Espe,” the statement added.

The operation on September 28th and 29th was, according to police intelligence agency PET, caused by an assassination attempt on a Denmark-based Iranian by Iranian intelligence services, the Danish agency said last week.

PET suspected people in the Volvo to be connected to the alleged attempt, but this proved not to be the case.

The Volvo was found on September 28th near Holbæk on Zealand after a search lasting several hours in Espe, involving a large number of heavily armed police.

A helicopter, a drone and police dogs were also involved in the search.

Police wrote in Monday’s press statement that the operation was naturally “the subject of attention, both in (Espe) and in the rest of the country.”

“Copenhagen Police would like to thank the residents of Espe for their understanding over the work we were required to conduct as part of the investigation,” the statement said.

The people who were travelling in the Volvo remain under investigation for economic crimes, the police added.

READ ALSO: Iran attempted political assassination in Denmark: PET


Danish terror trial begins against Iranian separatists

Three leaders of an Iranian Arab separatist group pleaded not guilty to financing and promoting terrorism in Iran with Saudi Arabia's backing, as their trial opened in Denmark on Thursday.

Danish terror trial begins against Iranian separatists
File photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

The three risk 12 years in prison if found guilty.

Aged 39 to 50, the trio are members of the separatist organisation ASMLA (Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz), which is based in Denmark and the Netherlands and which Iran considers a terrorist group.

The three, one of whom is a Danish citizen, have been held in custody in Denmark since February 2020.

Gert Dyrn, lawyer for the eldest of the three, told AFP that in his client’s opinion “what they are charged with is legitimate resistance towards an oppressive regime.”

“They are not denying receiving money from multiple sources, including Saudi Arabia, to help the movement and help them accomplish their political aim,” Dyrn said. 

His client has lived as a refugee in Denmark since 2006. 

According to the charge sheet seen by AFP, the three received around 30 million kroner (four million euros, $4.9 million) for ASMLA and its armed branch, through bank accounts in Austria and the United Arab Emirates.

The trio is also accused of spying on people and organisations in Denmark between 2012 and 2020 for Saudi intelligence.

Finally, they are also accused of promoting terrorism and “encouraging the activities of the terrorist movement Jaish Al-Adl, which has activities in Iran, by supporting them with advice, promotion, and coordinating attacks.”

The case dates back to 2018 when one of the three was the target of a foiled attack on Danish soil believed to be sponsored by the Iranian regime in retaliation for the killing of 24 people in Ahvaz, southwestern Iran, in September 2018.


Tehran formally denied the attack plan in Denmark, but a Danish court last year jailed a Norwegian-Iranian for seven years for his role in the plot. 

That attack put Danish authorities on the trail of the trio’s ASMLA activities.

Sunni Saudi Arabia is the main rival in the Middle East of Shia Iran, and Tehran regularly accuses it, along with Israel and the United States, of supporting separatist groups.

Lawyer Gert Dyrn said this was “the first case in Denmark within terror law where you have to consider who is a terrorist and who is a freedom fighter.”