Appeals in Munch Theft Begin

An appeal of convictions and acquittals in the 2004 theft of the Edvard Munch masterpieces "The Scream" and " Madonna" opened in Oslo on Tuesday with the court rejecting defense demands for a postponement.

The paintings -- considered priceless -- were recovered by police on Aug. 31, just over two years after they were stolen by masked gunmen in a brazen daylight heist at Oslo's Munch Museum. Both were damaged and are undergoing repairs.

In May, the Oslo district court convicted three men of helping the armed robbers, and sentenced them to prison terms of between four and eight years. Three others were acquitted.

Both the defense and the prosecution appealed the rulings. The Borgarting appeals court is hearing all six cases in a trial expected to last six weeks.

Defense attorneys demanded a postponement, saying they had not been allowed to see documents kept secret by police. Access to those documents, which could reveal how police recovered the paintings, has been at the center of an ongoing legal battle.

The defense also said the appeal cannot be heard while police are still investigating the case. During the weekend, police said they had a new suspect in the case and had interrogated several others.

Munch's emotionally charged painting style became a major influence in the birth of the 20th-century expressionist movement. He died in 1944 at the age of 80.