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SPYING

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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GRIPEN

Spying fears plague Swiss fighter deal: report

Ahead of a Swiss referendum on the country's plan to buy 22 fighter jets from Sweden, a report raised concerns on Sunday that a US-made communication system onboard could be used for spying.

Spying fears plague Swiss fighter deal: report

According to a report in Swiss weekly Le Matin Dimanche, Swedish defence firm Saab last year brought in US company Rockwell Collins to replace Roschi Rohde & Schwartz of Switzerland, which had originally been contracted to build the communications system.

While the Swiss would still be making their own encryption keys, the physical box and the software inside would be American made, according to the report.

Several experts quoted by the paper cautioned that the US company could potentially build a "backdoor" into the system, making it possible for US intelligence to see the information gathered during reconnaissance flights.

Following the trove of disclosures by former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden of Washington's widespread spying efforts, the American firm's reported role raised eyebrows.

"With the Americans, it would be surprising if there were no back doors," Richard Morva, head of the Swiss Crows association that deals with electronic warfare, told the paper.

Christophe Darbellay, who heads Switzerland's Christian Democratic Party and who favours the fighter deal, said he wanted an explanation from Defence Minister Ueli Maurer.

"In the context of the Snowden revelations… I think this is a mistake. I will always have more faith in a (company from) Bern than in Uncle Sam," he told the paper.

When contacted by Le Matin Dimanche, both Saab and the Swiss defence ministry stressed that the deal had "never excluded the use of non-European components".

The most recent polls show that a majority of Swiss voters oppose the plan to buy the Swedish Gripen fighters, which would cost the Alpine country 3.1 billion Swiss francs ($3.5 billion, €2.6 billion).

Voters are set to cast their ballots on the issue on May 18th.

Supporters of the Gripen deal underline that in exchange for the sale, Saab and its engine supplier are contractually bound to sign business deals with Swiss firms worth 2.5 billion francs over the next decade.

On Friday for instance, Swiss aircraft maker Pilatus said it had signed a lucrative preliminary deal with Saab to deliver 20 of its training planes to Sweden and to create a joint software development centre in Switzerland if the Gripen deal goes through.

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