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Pensioner indicted over China spy scandal

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15:37 CET+01:00
A 61-year-old pensioner has been indicted in Stockholm on charges of spying on behalf of the Chinese government.

Charges filed by prosecutor Tomas Lindstrand accuse the Mandarin-speaking Swedish citizen of illegally gathering intelligence on people of Uighur origin living in Sweden.

Intelligence agency Säpo arrested the suspect on June 4th after a lengthy investigation and surveillance period for allegedly gathering information on Sweden's 100-strong Uighur community.

The suspect came to Sweden as a political refugee in the 1990s. If convicted, he faces up to four years in prison.

According to the indictment, the 61-year-old passed on information to two handlers about members of Uighur clubs and associations in Sweden, Norway, Germany and the United States.

His handlers consisted of a diplomat attached to the Chinese embassy in Stockholm and a Chinese journalist, both of whom were tasked by Chinese intelligence services with securing details in Sweden about the interpersonal relationships of Uighurs.

The Swedish government expelled a Chinese diplomat earlier this year following revelations that the Chinese embassy was allegedly involved in spying on political refugees residing in Sweden.

According to the indictment, the suspect reported extensively on activity within the World Uyghur Congress (an umbrella organization for exiled Uighur groups), relayed notes taken during meetings with members of the Uighur community, and provided details of the local Uighur leaders' levels of political access.

By befriending his targets and pretending to sympathize with them, he was also able to supply his handlers with details on the political asylum status of people of particular interest to the Chinese authorities, as well as information about their health, current whereabouts, travel patterns and telephone numbers.

The suspect's intelligence gathering operation earned him rewards in the form of money and services, and spanned the period from January 2008 to June 2009.

Prosecutors said the crimes of which he was accused were of an aggravated nature as they were systematic, had been undertaken in a professional manner for a long period of time and could potentially cause serious damage to a large number of people.

Most ethnic Uighurs live in China's Xinjiang autonomous region. China regularly condemns militant Uighur nationalists as "terrorists" and accuses the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) of carrying out attacks.

A recent US State Department human rights report accuses China of having stepped up repression of the Uighur community.

Paul O'Mahony/AFP

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