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CRIME

Swedish teen caught with stolen ‘Hesa Fredrik’ speaker wired up to A-tractor

Police in Sweden have caught a rural teen red-handed with a speaker from one of the country's 'Hesa Fredrik' emergency sirens wired up to their A-tractor car, in what might be the most Swedish crime ever reported.

Swedish teen caught with stolen 'Hesa Fredrik' speaker wired up to A-tractor

Emergency services in the municipality of Ljusdal raised the alarm earlier this year after loudspeakers from the local ‘Hesa Fredrik’ alarm system started to go missing.

The mystery only began to be solved when a passer-by witnessed one of the speakers being stolen over the weekend and saw a so-called A-tractor, a car with a tractor engine which can be driven by teenagers, parked in the vicinity.

Police then tracked down the owner of the vehicle, and caught them with the speaker wired up to their vehicle’s sound system. 

“There it was, plugged into an amplifier in the back seat,” Peter Nystedt, head of the local emergency services, told local Ljusdals-Posten newspaper. “So you could say they were caught with their hands in the cookie jar.” 

Anyone who has been in Sweden for more than a few months will have heard the honking Hesa Fredrik alarm system, which is tested across the country four Monday afternoons a year. But to know about A-tractors, you need to have spent time driving in the Swedish countryside. 

A ‘Hesa Fredrik’ loudspeaker on a rooftop in Stockholm. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Hesa Fredrik sounds rather like the horn of a ship as it leaves port, which makes for a rather curious aural experience hundreds of miles inland. It was nicknamed Hesa Fredrik (“Hoarse Fredrik”) after a Swedish columnist at Dagens Nyheter in the 1930s, Oscar Fredrik Rydqvist, noted that it sounded like himself when he had a cold.

A-tractors, meanwhile, small, cut-off cars with a max speed of 30km/h and an orange warning triangle on the back, are popular with teenagers, as anyone over the age of 15 can drive one as long as they have a moped or tractor driving licence.

Although the story might generate amusing headlines, Nystedt said that damaging Sweden’s alarm system was potentially very serious. 

The system, he told the newspaper, is “the one possibility we have for warning the public quickly”. 

“If there was an accident with dangerous chemicals or a fire, where we need to warn people, this is the system we use to do that. If the loudspeakers are stolen there are blank spots on our map, and that can have seriously tragic consequences. Every second can be important,” he said.

Many A-tractors are hand-built or hand-altered from standard cars, meaning that they are often personalised to the owner, with colours, decorations or decals reflecting the owner’s personality. They are also notorious for having loud stereo systems, sometimes leading to complaints from locals tired of listening to teenagers allegedly driving dangerously and playing loud music.

Nystedt said he suspected that the other thefts may have been perpetrated by other A-tractor-driving teenagers.

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CRIME

Swedish spy brothers go on trial in ‘unique’ Russia case

Two Swedish brothers, one a former intelligence official, went on trial in Stockholm on Friday accused of "aggravated espionage" for allegedly spying for Russia's GRU military intelligence service between 2011 and 2021.

Swedish spy brothers go on trial in 'unique' Russia case

“This case is unique in many ways… We haven’t had a trial like this in more than 20 years”, prosecutor Mats Ljungqvist told court in his opening statement.

He said the information obtained, transmitted and divulged was “extremely sensitive material”. His co-prosecutor Per Lindqvist said it could be “detrimental to Sweden’s national security”.

READ ALSO: Swedish brothers charged with spying for Russia

Defendants Payam and Peyman Kia risk life sentences if found guilty. Most of the trial will be held behind closed doors.

“The court will have insight into material that very few in this country have seen or have access to,” Ljungqvist said.

A court sketch of the trial showing Peyman Kia and his lawyer to the left, and Payam Kia and his lawyer in the middle. Photo: Anders Humlebo/TT

On Friday, prosecutors made brief introductory statements before the judge ordered reporters out of the courtroom.

Payam Kia is aged 35 and his brother 42, according to the charge sheet. They are of Iranian origin, according to Swedish media reports.

Peyman Kia, who appeared calm in court dressed in a dark suit and tie, has served in Sweden’s intelligence service Sapo and intelligence units in the Swedish army.

According to Sweden’s newspaper of reference, Dagens Nyheter, he at one point worked for the Office for Special Information Gathering (KSI), the most secret section of the military secret service.

He is accused of illegally acquiring information during his employment with Sapo and the armed forces.

Payam Kia is accused of “participating in the planning of the deed and handling contacts with Russia and the GRU, including the handover of information and receiving compensation”.

Bearded and dressed in the Swedish jail system’s green overalls, he hid his face as he entered the courtroom with his lawyer. Lawyers for the pair have been tight-lipped about the case. They told court on Friday that their clients denied the charges.

The prosecutors requested that much of the material in the case be classified even after the end of the trial, due to its sensitive nature.

The names of several witnesses, including those working for the Swedish military and security police and who have access to vast amounts of classified information, will also be kept secret.

The case is expected to continue until December 12.

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