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China rejects spy case findings

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11:02 CET+01:00
China has strongly denied allegations that it illegally gathered information on members of the Uighur community after a Swedish court jailed a man for spying.

"This kind of accusation is totally groundless and has ulterior motives," foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters, without giving any further details.

Babur Maihesuti, a 62-year-old Uighur man who had been living in Sweden for 13 years as a political refugee, was sentenced by a Stockholm court to 16 months in prison on Monday for spying on expatriates from the mainly Muslim minority.

Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking Central Asian people residing in northwest China's volatile Xinjiang region, have accused Beijing of decades of religious, cultural and political oppression -- claims the government denies.

The region suffers from strong ethnic tensions. In July last year, nearly 200 people were killed when ethnic violence erupted in the regional capital Urumqi, according to official figures.

Maihesuti was found guilty of "aggravated illegal espionage activity" by the Swedish court.

The court found that from January 2008 to June 2009, he had collected personal information about exiled Uighurs, including details on their health, travel and political involvement, and passed it on to Beijing.

He had given the data to a Chinese diplomat and journalist who, on assignment from the nation's intelligence service, carried out operations in Sweden for Beijing, the court said.

Qin would not be drawn on whether the case could have an impact on relations between China and Sweden.

"We attach great importance to Sino-Swedish relations, and hope to be able to develop ties on the basis of respect and mutual confidence," he said.

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