New Zealand soldier charged with espionage

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SYDNEY (Reuters) - A New Zealand soldier has been charged with espionage, its defence force said on Wednesday, with media reporting the soldier was suspected of having ties to extreme-right groups.

The Director of Military Prosecutions laid 17 charges in the Court Martial of New Zealand against a soldier based at the main Linton Military Camp, whose name has been suppressed, the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) said in a statement.

The accusations include four charges of espionage, two of attempted espionage, two charges of "possession of an objectionable publication" and three charges of "accessing a computer system for a dishonest purpose", the force said.

The charges come three months after a New Zealand court sentenced a white supremacist to life in prison for killing 51 Muslim worshippers, the first such sentence in the country.

The NZDF said it would not make any further comment as the matter was before the courts.

Public broadcaster Radio New Zealand reported a soldier had been arrested in December 2019 amidst fears that far-right groups were infiltrating the military.

(Reporting by Paulina Duran in Sydney; Editing by Robert Birsel)