Sweden’s first spy trial in 18 years gets under way

Sweden's first espionage trial in 18 years got under way on Thursday, with a Swedish tech consultant accused of selling sensitive information about truckmaker Scania and Volvo Cars to Russia.

Sweden's first spy trial in 18 years gets under way
File photo of a Volvo Cars factory. Photo: Björn Larsson Rosvall/TT

The 47-year-old man is accused of espionage and illegal intelligence gathering that put Sweden’s national security at risk, prosecutors said.

The accused was arrested in dramatic fashion in February 2019 while dining at a restaurant in central Stockholm with a Russian diplomat suspected of being an intelligence officer.

The diplomat was briefly detained but released on account of his diplomatic immunity.

The arrest led to a diplomatic row between Sweden and Russia, with Stockholm subsequently denying visas to two Russian envoys. Moscow responded by expelling two Swedish diplomats.

At the time of his arrest, the consultant had just received 27,800 kronor ($3,355) for passing information to Moscow, prosecutor Mats Ljungqvist said in February.

The information regarded “manufacturing, such as source codes and construction of products in the automotive sector”.

According to the indictment, the man illegally transferred material from his work computer to his private computer and thereafter to USB memory sticks.

In order to hide his activities from being logged by the IT system, he also photographed material from the screen of his work computer.

The man denies the allegations.

The trial is expected to conclude on September 1st, and the accused risks a maximum of six years in prison if convicted.

In its latest annual report published in 2020, Sweden’s intelligence agency said Russia, along with China, posed the biggest intelligence threat to the Scandinavian country.

According to public broadcaster SVT, this is the first time a person has gone on trial in Sweden for espionage in 18 years.

The trial continues.

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Sweden extradites suspected PKK terror group member to Turkey

Sweden has extradited a convicted member of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) to Turkey as Ankara presses Stockholm for further steps in return for its membership in NATO, state media reported on Saturday.

Sweden extradites suspected PKK terror group member to Turkey

Mahmut Tat, who was sentenced to six years and 10 months in jail for PKK membership in Turkey, fled to Sweden in 2015 but his asylum request was rejected.

Tat arrived in Istanbul on Friday night having been detained by Swedish police, the Anadolu news agency reported.

He was taken by Turkish police soon after arriving at Istanbul airport and referred to court on Saturday, the private NTV broadcaster reported.

Turkey has accused Finland and Sweden in particular of providing a safe haven for outlawed Kurdish groups it deems “terrorists”, and held back on ratifying their NATO bids despite an agreement in Madrid in June.

NATO ambitions

Finland and Sweden dropped decades of military non-alignment and sought to join NATO in May, after Russia invaded Ukraine.

The decision requires a consensus within the US-led defence alliance, but only Turkey and Hungary are yet to ratify their membership.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu held trilateral talks with his Swedish and Finnish counterparts on the margins of a NATO meeting in Bucharest this week.

“The statements (coming out of Sweden) are good, the determination is good but we need to see concrete steps,” Cavusoglu said.

Ankara has said it expects Stockholm to take action on issues including the extradition of criminals and freezing of terror assets.