Persson: Lindh didn?t know about CIA

Prime Minister Göran Persson has told a senior committee of Swedish MPs that neither the late foreign minister Anna Lindh nor justice minister Thomas Bodström knew that two Egyptian terror suspects were to be deported from Sweden by CIA agents on an American government plane.

Persson’s testimony to the Swedish foreign affairs committee about the events in December 2001 flatly contradicts testimony given last week by agents from Säpo, Sweden’s secret service. A Säpo agent claimed that Lindh and senior figures in the Justice Ministry were directly involved in decisions about how the two should be deported.

Addressing the committee, which is made up of senior politicians and the king, Persson launched a two-pronged defence of his colleagues. He said that none of the ten senior foreign ministry officials to have attended a briefing with Lindh on the day before the men were deported remember the question being raised. But he also argued that it would have been acceptable for ministers to have allowed the Americans to get involved:

“It is perfectly within the rules to accept help from a foreign power to carry out an extradition such as this.”

The case of the deported Egyptians has raised questions about how the Swedish authorities should interact with foreign intelligence agencies. These questions were highlighted again this week when Säpo admitted that foreign agencies had been allowed to question four terrorist suspects who have been held in Sweden since spring 2004.

The four men are accused of two bomb attacks in Iraq – one in Arbil, in the north of the country, and one in Najaf.

Expressen claimed to have information that German, American and British secret service agents had been allowed to question the men in Sweden. Säpo confirmed that the Germans had spoken to the suspects, but denied that the British and Americans had been involved.

One of the suspects confirmed to the paper that he had been questioned by agents of foreign powers, but said that he could not say from which countries.

Sources: Dagens Nyheter, Svenska Dagbladet, Expressen