Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 14 December 2019

Swedish court opens trial of alleged Iranian spy who posed as journalist

The man is accused of spying on exiled Iranians in Sweden

A man accused of spying on exiled Iranians across Europe is due to go on trial in Stockholm, Sweden. Mikael Sjoberg/Bloomberg
A man accused of spying on exiled Iranians across Europe is due to go on trial in Stockholm, Sweden. Mikael Sjoberg/Bloomberg

A man is due to stand trial in Sweden for espionage after allegedly posing as a journalist to spy on exiled Iranians living in Europe.

The 46-year-old, who has not been named, is accused of going undercover as a journalist in a bid to film and photograph Iranian nationals on behalf of Iran.

He was arrested by Swedish security services in February.

It is alleged that over a four year period between April 2015 to February 2019 he collected personal information about opposition Iranians belonging to the Ahwazi community who were living in Sweden, Belgium and the Netherlands.

Ahwazi Arabs have long faced persecution in Iran and the alleged offending came at the same time as Iranian authorities arrested hundreds of political and minority rights activists from the Ahwazi community.

It is claimed the man was pretending to work for an Arabic evening newspaper.

On charging him, Senior Public Prosecutor Hans-Jörgen Hanström said: “I have prosecuted the man for photographing and filming Ahwazi conference delegates and demonstration participants in Belgium, the Netherlands and Sweden.

"He is also claimed to have infiltrated Ahwazi forums on the internet and thus obtained opposition persons’ addresses and telephone numbers."

He is also accused of taking images of car registration details and of taking internet login details from people's homes.

Prosecutors say he then gave the information to Iranian intelligence services both online and in person during face to face meetings in Tehran.

Part of a 1,700-page preliminary investigation carried out by the Swedish Prosecution Authority's National Security Unit and the Swedish Security Service, known as SAPO, is confidential.

Sections of the trial are due to be held behind closed doors.

It was due to start on Tuesday at the Stockholm District Court and will last nine days until mid December.

A spokesperson for the Swedish Security Service said: "The intelligence threat to Sweden has both increased and broadened in recent years. Refugee espionage is one aspect of the intelligence threat posed by foreign powers against Sweden.

"Refugee espionage is a very serious crime. Information gathered in this way is used, for instance, as a means to harass and intimidate regime critics and members of their families.

"It is a type of crime that undermines the democratic process as it prevents people who are already vulnerable from exercising their constitutional rights and freedoms in Sweden.

"The Swedish Security Service makes every effort to prevent and counter refugee espionage in Sweden. Indications of such activities are always followed up and investigated. These investigations are often complicated and take a long time."

The man denies the offences and is remanded into custody.

Updated: November 19, 2019 07:48 PM

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