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'Refugee spy' remanded into custody

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10:37 CEST+02:00
A Chinese Uyghur who was arrested on suspicions of spying on refugees was remanded into custody on Friday by the Stockholm district court.

The 61-year-old man, who is a Swedish citizen, is suspected of having committed gross unlawful espionage, the most severe charge available under the law.

The court followed the prosecution's recommendation and remanded the man into custody.

Both the prosecution and the man's lawyer confirmed that he is Uyghur, an ethnic minority primarily residing in the northwestern Chinese province of Xinjiang.

The group is Muslim, speaks a Turkish dialect and the Chinese government has identified several armed Uyghur separatist groups.

The man came to Sweden as a political refugee in the late 1990s and became a Swedish citizen in 2002.

Björn Hurtig, the man's attorney, said he was unable to comment on whether the Chinese government may have leverage over the man, and if he is being blackmailed.

During the custody negotiations, which were held behind closed doors, the man was only referred to as X.

“X is on reasonable grounds suspected of unlawful espionage during the period January 2008 to June 3, 2009,” said chief prosecutor Tomas Lindstrand.

Hurtig communicated that the accused denied the charges as well as any criminal wrongdoing.

The Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs declined to comment on whether or not any measures have been taken against a foreign state due to the case.

“The foreign ministry has no comment on that issue,” said ministry spokesperson Barbro Elm to TT.

Prosecutor Lindstrand is expecting a long and comprehensive investigation and will request that the man remain in custody when the current deadline runs out in two weeks.

Formal charges must be filed by June 18.

The crime of 'refugee espionage' (flyktingspionage) is widespread in Sweden, according to Säpo, with a number of countries committing major resources to gathering information about dissidents who have fled their domestic borders for Sweden.

The crime is considered serious and is viewed as a threat to Sweden's national security.

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