Danish PM Mette Frederiksen suffers minor whiplash from Copenhagen attack

Police arrest one man and open investigation into incident in Kultorvet square that left prime minister ‘shocked’.

Mette Frederiksen
Mette Frederiksen has been prime minister of Denmark since 2019 [File: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Reuters]

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen has suffered a light whiplash injury after she was assaulted by a man in central Copenhagen, her office has said.

The 46-year-old was “shocked by the incident” on Friday evening in the capital’s Kultorvet square, the office said in an initial statement. Frederiksen had been taken to Rigshospitalet for a medical check-up following the assault. It added the assault caused a “minor whiplash injury”, but that Frederiksen was otherwise unharmed.

In a subsequent statement, the prime minister thanked those who offered support, calling it “incredibly touching”.

“I am saddened and shaken by the episode yesterday, but am otherwise safe,” she said. “For once, I need peace. Both for body and soul. I need to be with my family and need to be myself for a bit.”

Danish police said on Saturday a 39-year-old Polish had appeared in front of a judge for preliminary questioning in relation to the incident. He was later remanded in custody for 12 days.

Although the assault came two days before Danes head to the polls to vote in European Union parliamentary elections, prosecutor Taruh Sekeroglu said that a political motivation was not the “guiding … hypothesis” for the attack.

Copenhagen police inspector Trine Moller told Ritzau news agency that the incident was being treated as a “single, spontaneous act”.

Frederiksen has been campaigning with the Social Democrats’ EU lead candidate, Christel Schaldemose. Media reports said the attack was not linked to a campaign event.

‘Strong push’

Two witnesses, Marie Adrian and Anna Ravn, told newspaper BT that they had seen Frederiksen arrive at the square while they were sitting by a nearby fountain just before 6pm (16:00 GMT).

“A man came by in the opposite direction and gave her a hard shove on the shoulder, causing her to fall to the side,” the newspaper quoted the woman as saying.

They added that while it was a “strong push”, Frederiksen did not hit the ground.

According to the witnesses, the prime minister then sat down at a nearby cafe. They described the man as tall and slim, and said he had tried to hurry away but had not gotten far before being grabbed and pushed to the ground by men in suits.

Another witness, Kasper Jorgensen, told newspaper Ekstra Bladet that he had seen the man after he was tackled to the ground, saying that one of what he presumed to be part of the security service had put a knee on the man’s back.

“They had pacified him, and as he lay there, he looked confused and a little dazed,” Jorgensen told the newspaper.

A resident told the Reuters news agency Frederiksen was escorted away by security following the assault.

“She seemed a little stressed,” Soren Kjergaard, who works as a barista on the square, said.

‘Despicable act’

News of the assault was received with shock and condemnation by leaders across the political spectrum inside Denmark and abroad.

European Council President Charles Michel said he was “outraged by the assault” while European Parliament President Roberta Metsola urged Frederiksen to “keep strong” while adding in a post on X that “violence has no place in politics”.

EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen also condemned what she called a “despicable act which goes against everything we believe and fight for in Europe”, in a statement to social media.

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said that “an attack on a democratically elected leader is also an attack on our democracy”, while French President Emmanuel Macron called it “unacceptable” and wished Frederiksen “a speedy recovery”.

In 2019, Frederiksen became Denmark’s youngest prime minister and kept the post after emerging victorious in the 2022 general election.

“I must say that it shakes all of us who are close to her,” Danish Environment Minister Magnus Heunicke said on social media. “Something like this must not happen in our beautiful, safe and free country.”

Violence against politicians has become a theme in the run-up to the EU elections. In May, a candidate from Germany’s Social Democrats was beaten and seriously injured while campaigning for a seat in the European Parliament.

In Slovakia, the election campaign was overshadowed by an attempt to assassinate Prime Minister Robert Fico on May 15, sending shockwaves through the country and Europe.

Source: News Agencies