U of C graduate detained in Arctic Norway, accused of being Russian spy

José Assis Giammaria is seen here while door knocking for Sean Devine, an NDP candidate for the federal electoral district of Nepean in Ontario in 2015. Giammaria, who graduated from the University of Calgary in 2018, has been detained by Norway’s domestic security agency on suspicions of being a Russian spy. (Twitter)

By Joel Dryden · CBC News

José Assis Giammaria convocated in fall 2018; Norwegian security service said Tuesday it had detained him

A purported Brazilian researcher, who has been identified as a graduate of the University of Calgary, has been detained on suspicions of being a Russian spy, Norway’s domestic security agency said Tuesday.

José Assis Giammaria convocated in fall 2018 with a master of strategic studies, the U of C confirmed in a statement to CBC News on Tuesday afternoon.

Speaking to CBC News, Gunhild Hoogensen Gjørv, a professor in security studies at the Arctic University of Norway, said Giammaria took a job at her university in December of last year.

Gjørv said Giammaria had contacted her with a request to participate in research at the university. He sent his resume and grades, and Gjørv said she followed up with professors at the University of Calgary.

She said Giammaria worked at the university as a researcher and participated in seminars. She found out about his arrest on her way back from conferences in Canada earlier this week.

“I got a message from the police security service here in Norway that they wanted to meet with me and my husband right away,” Gjørv told CBC News on Tuesday, adding she was later informed by her boss that Giammaria’s office had been “ransacked” and that he had been arrested.

Gunhild Hoogensen Gjørv, a professor in security studies at the Arctic University of Norway, said she found out about the arrest of José Assis Giammaria on her way back from a conference in Canada. (Google Meets)

Gjørv said she didn’t think Giammaria would have had access to any information that would be considered classified.

“He also could use sort of like a general computer in our office. If he’s technologically savvy, then I cannot say anything about what he had further access to with regards to that,” she said.

Norwegian broadcaster NRK reported that Giammaria was apprehended Monday on his way to his job. The Norwegian Police Security Service told The Associated Press that it “is concerned that he may have acquired information about Norway’s policy in the northern region.”

Thomas Hansen, Giammaria’s lawyer, told Norwegian newspaper VG that his client denied any wrongdoing.

In 2019, Giammaria wrote an article for The Canadian Naval Review, advocating for the potential of establishing bases in the Canadian arctic.

The editor for that publication, Ann Griffiths, said she receives a variety of unsolicited submissions, one of which was the piece from Giammaria. She said that was as far as his relationship with the publication went.

“The situation is very unsettling,” she wrote in an email.

U of C said in a statement that students in the programs are taught by professors and instructors, not military professionals, to build a “well-rounded understanding of the drivers of military, security and strategic decision-making.”

“No access to information is provided that any other student in any other program wouldn’t have,” said the statement.

“Academic credentials are confirmed through the registrar’s office. Claims of identity and criminal background are the purview of the federal government as part of the immigration process.”

Federal election campaign canvasser in 2015

While he was in Canada, Giammaria volunteered for Sean Devine’s political campaign as an election worker in 2015. At the time, Devine was seeking to represent the riding of Ottawa-Nepean for the NDP.

Speaking to CBC News on Tuesday night, Devine said he didn’t remember him well, but recalled that Giammaria was a good speaker.

“He had a really impressive resume,” added Devine, who now sits on Ottawa city council. “He was a good volunteer.”

Devine said he has not been in contact with Giammaria since his campaign work seven years ago.

CBC News

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