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CRIME

Swedish spy brothers go on trial in ‘unique’ Russia case

Two Swedish brothers, one a former intelligence official, went on trial in Stockholm on Friday accused of "aggravated espionage" for allegedly spying for Russia's GRU military intelligence service between 2011 and 2021.

Swedish spy brothers go on trial in 'unique' Russia case
People queuing on Friday to enter the courtroom ahead of the start of the trial of Payam and Peyman Kia. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

“This case is unique in many ways… We haven’t had a trial like this in more than 20 years”, prosecutor Mats Ljungqvist told court in his opening statement.

He said the information obtained, transmitted and divulged was “extremely sensitive material”. His co-prosecutor Per Lindqvist said it could be “detrimental to Sweden’s national security”.

READ ALSO: Swedish brothers charged with spying for Russia

Defendants Payam and Peyman Kia risk life sentences if found guilty. Most of the trial will be held behind closed doors.

“The court will have insight into material that very few in this country have seen or have access to,” Ljungqvist said.

A court sketch of the trial showing Peyman Kia and his lawyer to the left, and Payam Kia and his lawyer in the middle. Photo: Anders Humlebo/TT

On Friday, prosecutors made brief introductory statements before the judge ordered reporters out of the courtroom.

Payam Kia is aged 35 and his brother 42, according to the charge sheet. They are of Iranian origin, according to Swedish media reports.

Peyman Kia, who appeared calm in court dressed in a dark suit and tie, has served in Sweden’s intelligence service Sapo and intelligence units in the Swedish army.

According to Sweden’s newspaper of reference, Dagens Nyheter, he at one point worked for the Office for Special Information Gathering (KSI), the most secret section of the military secret service.

He is accused of illegally acquiring information during his employment with Sapo and the armed forces.

Payam Kia is accused of “participating in the planning of the deed and handling contacts with Russia and the GRU, including the handover of information and receiving compensation”.

Bearded and dressed in the Swedish jail system’s green overalls, he hid his face as he entered the courtroom with his lawyer. Lawyers for the pair have been tight-lipped about the case. They told court on Friday that their clients denied the charges.

The prosecutors requested that much of the material in the case be classified even after the end of the trial, due to its sensitive nature.

The names of several witnesses, including those working for the Swedish military and security police and who have access to vast amounts of classified information, will also be kept secret.

The case is expected to continue until December 12.

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POLITICS

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.

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