Ericsson rejects claims of aiding Iran

On Tuesday Swedish telecom giant Ericsson rejected claims that the company has sold tracking equipment to mobile operators in Iran.

What Ericsson did deliver to Iranian mobile operator Irancell was a system for ”location based charging”, used to determine where the caller is when making a phone call on his mobile, in order to be able to charge the right tariff, according to Ericsson press spokesperson Fredrik Hallstan.

”But this system doesn’t make it possible for anyone to actively track the caller in real time,” Hallstan told The Local.

The rejection follows claims from news agency Bloomberg that Ericsson has been providing Iran with technology capable of tracking dissidents through their mobile phone activity.

Following the demonstrations around the time of the presidential election in 2009, many Iranian protesters were rounded up by police and imprisoned for speaking up against the regime.

Bloomberg has gone through over one hundred documents and interviewed a large number of people and claim that Swedish telecoms giant Ericsson, along with two European telecom companies, provided the Iranian government with the means to monitor these protesters through their mobile phone and email activity during that same period of time.

However, according to Hallstan, the only other documents that Bloomberg journalists could have seen would be where local representatives have joined into discussions in a tender process but where the company has chosen to pull out.

”There was a text messaging service under discussion at one point that we chose to pull out of. We bid on it together with a partner and withdrew from the tender as we did not want to integrate our standard system into their solution,” Hallstan said.

He also added that Ericsson has been reducing their commitment in the country gradually over the last few years.

”But we have been operating in the region for 30 years,” he said.

Hallstan thinks it is natural that Ericsson will continue to maintain existing systems in Iran.

”It is in everyone’s interest that you can call in and out of the country,” he said.

Despite the wave of reactions that the Bloomberg report has unleashed in the media, Hallstan is confident about Ericsson’s role.

”Technology can always be put to the wrong use, but we have witnessed how telecommunications and social media are crucial for civil resistance, as could be seen for example during the Arab Spring, when it certainly furthered democratic developments,” Hallstan told The Local.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Danish terror trial begins against Iranian separatists

Three leaders of an Iranian Arab separatist group pleaded not guilty to financing and promoting terrorism in Iran with Saudi Arabia's backing, as their trial opened in Denmark on Thursday.

Danish terror trial begins against Iranian separatists
File photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

The three risk 12 years in prison if found guilty.

Aged 39 to 50, the trio are members of the separatist organisation ASMLA (Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz), which is based in Denmark and the Netherlands and which Iran considers a terrorist group.

The three, one of whom is a Danish citizen, have been held in custody in Denmark since February 2020.

Gert Dyrn, lawyer for the eldest of the three, told AFP that in his client’s opinion “what they are charged with is legitimate resistance towards an oppressive regime.”

“They are not denying receiving money from multiple sources, including Saudi Arabia, to help the movement and help them accomplish their political aim,” Dyrn said. 

His client has lived as a refugee in Denmark since 2006. 

According to the charge sheet seen by AFP, the three received around 30 million kroner (four million euros, $4.9 million) for ASMLA and its armed branch, through bank accounts in Austria and the United Arab Emirates.

The trio is also accused of spying on people and organisations in Denmark between 2012 and 2020 for Saudi intelligence.

Finally, they are also accused of promoting terrorism and “encouraging the activities of the terrorist movement Jaish Al-Adl, which has activities in Iran, by supporting them with advice, promotion, and coordinating attacks.”

The case dates back to 2018 when one of the three was the target of a foiled attack on Danish soil believed to be sponsored by the Iranian regime in retaliation for the killing of 24 people in Ahvaz, southwestern Iran, in September 2018.


Tehran formally denied the attack plan in Denmark, but a Danish court last year jailed a Norwegian-Iranian for seven years for his role in the plot. 

That attack put Danish authorities on the trail of the trio’s ASMLA activities.

Sunni Saudi Arabia is the main rival in the Middle East of Shia Iran, and Tehran regularly accuses it, along with Israel and the United States, of supporting separatist groups.

Lawyer Gert Dyrn said this was “the first case in Denmark within terror law where you have to consider who is a terrorist and who is a freedom fighter.”