COPENHAGEN, Denmark— A German-Iranian professor at a Norwegian technical university was charged Wednesday with violating sanctions on Iran by inviting four guest researchers from the Islamic Republic and giving them access to a laboratory.
A Norwegian prosecutor said the visiting researchers had access to knowledge that could be useful to Iran’s nuclear program.
Norwegian broadcaster NRK reported that during the period from February 2018 to 2019, the professor, who was not identified, invited four Iranian researchers to NTNU university in Trondheim, the Scandinavian country’s third-largest city. The duration of the guests’ stay varied.
“The serious thing here is that people from Iran had access to knowledge, and this is the knowledge that could be useful to Iran’s nuclear program. We do not say that it is, but it is the potential danger here that is serious,” prosecutor Frederik Ranke told NRK.
Ranke said the professor was charged with violating the Iran sanctions, export control regulations, and Norway’s data breach legislation. If found guilty, he faces up to 10 years in prison.
Non-European Union member Norway has adhered to all U.N. Security Council resolutions on Iran’s nuclear program and has supported EU restrictive measures against Iran for a number of years.
According to his Norwegian lawyer, the professor denies wrongdoing. Lawyer Brynjulf Risnes told NRK that is the client has left Norway but is willing to return to stand trial.
“There is nothing in the information they have received and the projects they have worked on that enables them to contribute to the nuclear industry in any way,” Risnes told NRK.
PST, Norway’s domestic security agency, suspected the professor of having contributed to a data breach by giving others unauthorized access to a computer system, NRK said.
The actual data breach occurred when a program—given by one of the guest researchers—was installed. He could then retrieve data, even if he was not affiliated with NTNU, according to Ranke.
Bjarne Foss, head of the engineering cybernetics department at NTNU, told the university newspaper that the professor and the Iranian guest researchers “used a special lab, called the nano-mechanical lab, relatively intensively over a short period.”
The paper said that one can do advanced analysis of the properties of various metal alloys, such as their strength and hardness, in the lab.
After learning this, university officials contacted PST in early 2019, the Universitetsavisa said.