Documents cast doubt on Swede’s spy conviction

For the past 25 years the Swedish Security Service (Säpo) has been sitting on documents attesting to the innocence of a man charged with espionage in 1983, a new investigation has revealed.

Documents cast doubt on Swede's spy conviction

In 1983, despite fervent protestations of his innocence, lieutenant-colonel Bertil Ströberg was sentenced to six years imprisonment on charges of espionage.

Ströberg was arrested on the May 20th, 1983 at the main post office on Vasagatan in Stockholm, where he had been inquiring for letters addressed to a ‘Sven-Roland Larsson’.

Several weeks earlier, the Polish embassy in Stockholm had received a letter signed by a ‘Sven-Roland Larsson’ which contained a number of state secrets and a request for 25,000 kronor ($3,500) in exchange for further information.

During his hearing, Ströberg claimed that he had met a man calling himself ‘Sven-Roland Larsson’ at Djurgården in Stockholm. Shortly thereafter, he received a letter from ‘Larsson’ containing a request to pick up a delivery in the man’s name.

At the time of his conviction, the court ruled that Ströberg’s explanation of the incident was absurd and an obvious cover story. Through the years that followed, Ströberg clung to his original explanation and insisted that he was the victim of a conspiracy.

But according to TV4’s investigative news program, Kalla Fakta, the lieutenant-colonel may have been telling the truth after all.(S

At the request of TV4, the Säpo has now lifted the lid on Ströberg’s file, revealing a number of important documents pertaining to the case – documents that the court and Ströberg’s lawyer were never able to see.

The documents contain information from a formerly unknown Swedish spy, Lennart Savemark, who infiltrated the embassies of a number of communist nations during the 1950’s.

After hearing of the Ströberg case in 1984, Savemark contacted the Säpo to inform them that he himself had been personally targeted by a ‘Sven-Roland Larsson’ 25 years prior to Ströberg’s conviction.

During the mid-1950’s Savemark was on an assignment in the Soviet embassy when a letter turned up on his desk. The letter contained a copy of a secret report that he had submitted to Säpo detailing his work in the Soviet embassy. It was accompanied by a letter offering further information in exchange for 2,000 kronor, signed ‘Sven-Roland Larsson.’

At the time of the occurrence, the 25-year-old Ströberg was attending the Swedish Defence Academy (Försvarets läroverk) in Uppsala.

No information or evidence exists to tie Ströberg to this incident.

“I hope to God that the story will be corrected as soon as possible,” a tearful Ströberg told TV4.

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Sweden set for tougher laws against spying

The Swedish government wants to make it easier for police and prosecutors to combat spying against refugees in Sweden and against the country as a whole.

Sweden set for tougher laws against spying

In addition, such crimes will be subject to stiffer penalties, according to a bill expected to be presented by the government on Thursday.

The proposal includes a wider definition of both crimes, which are currently difficult to prosecute.

The minimum sentence for spying on refugees will be increased from simple fines to prison time.

The definition of spying on refugees will also be expanded to “unauthorized intelligence activity against a person”, according to the proposal, and is meant to address cases in which foreign powers attempt to spy on regime critics who have fled in Sweden.

Current legislation stipulates that the spying must take place in secret, but now the government also wants to cover cases in which information gathering takes place openly and is often followed by threats.

“This is unsavoury activity that we must take very seriously. Many feel that authorities in their previous home countries are trying to put pressure on them and keeping tabs on what they do. Considering that many refugees have relatives back in their home countries, things can go quite badly,” Justice Minister Beatrice Ask told the TT news agency.

Iran, China, Syria, Uzbekistan, and Eritrea are among the countries that are sometimes accused of spying on refugees in Sweden, but very few cases ever make it to court.

The proposed law will also broaden the definition of unauthorized intelligence activity directed against Sweden.

“We’re widening what can be criminalized and it’s directed toward activities that one can compare with the first stage of spying,” said Ask.

The new definition targets the secret gathering of information and scraps a current requirement that the purpose of the information gathering must also be proven.

“This has been sought after for a long time by the Swedish Security Service (Säpo) and others who investigate these types of crimes. They think it’s been too hard to bring forth evidence against the perpetrators,” said Ask.

Penalties for spying against Sweden will also tougher according to the new bill, to between six months and two years in prison, or four years of the crime is considered aggravated.

Stronger sentences makes it easier for investigators to have suspects held on remand or get authorization for telephone wiretapping and other “secret coercive measures”.

TT/The Local/dl

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