Three journalists at a large Danish newspaper have been acquitted of charges they published a secret government report that said there was no evidence that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction.

The editor of the Berlingske Tidende newspaper, Niels Lunde, and two reporters -  Michael Bjerre and Jesper Larsen -  faced possible fines or prison terms after publishing a series of stories in 2004 based on leaked Danish government documents.

Those stories said there was no evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq at the time of the U.S.-led 2003 invasion -- one of the key reasons cited by the United States and Britain for military action.

A former intelligence officer has served a four-month prison sentence for leaking the documents in the case, which was widely viewed as a landmark test of news media freedom.

Prosecutors had argued that the newspaper violated a law that prohibits news media from publishing classified information that could harm national security.

But in Monday's ruling, a Copenhagen City Court judge ruled that public interest in the information outweighed government concerns that intelligence operations could be compromised.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.