Swedish court finds man guilty of spying for China

June 15, 2018 GMT

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — A Swedish court on Friday found a man guilty of spying for China by gathering information on Tibetans who had fled to Sweden, and sentenced him to 22 months in jail.

The Sodertorn District Court, near Stockholm, convicted Dorjee Gyantsan, a 49-year old Tibetan who worked for a pro-Tibetan radio station, of “gross illegal intelligence activity” carried out from July 2015 to February 2017.

Judge Daniel Eriksson said the Swedish intelligence service’s investigation had proven that Gyantsan “several times traveled to Poland to meet a Chinese intelligence officer” and that those meetings were “part of a comprehensive intelligence campaign aimed at people of Tibetan descent.”

The information passed on by Gyantsan “may have caused great damage to Tibetans both in Sweden and abroad,” Eriksson added.

The court said Gyantsan was paid for the information that included personal matters, ranging from where people lived and family relations to political activities, trips and meetings. Swedish media reported the man had received 50,000 kronor ($6,000) on at least one occasion and had his expenses paid.

His lawyer, Mikael Soderberg, told Swedish news agency TT that his client denies any wrongdoing, saying he didn’t know that he person he met was an intelligence officer. Soderberg said his client would appeal.

Gyantsan was arrested Feb. 26, 2017, in Sweden by the country’s security service, SAPO, which had him on their radar for some time. No further details were provided.

China has controlled Tibet for more than half a century. It sent troops to occupy the Himalayan territory following the 1949 communist revolution and contends that the region has been part of Chinese territory for centuries. Many Tibetans claim a long history of independence.

People exposed to this kind of spying “can be deterred from using their democratic rights,” said Daniel Stenling, head of SAPOs counterespionage. He said it was “a serious matter” that was solved “thanks to close cooperation with other European police authorities.” He didn’t identify any of the cooperation partners.

The verdict comes at a time of tense relations between Stockholm and Beijing.

China is holding a Chinese-born Swedish national on suspicion of leaking state secrets and has rebuked Sweden for demanding his release.

Hong Kong-based bookseller Gui Minhai, 53, was taken off a train by police in eastern China on Jan. 20, while in the company of two Swedish diplomats with whom he was traveling to Beijing.