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Iran says Swede who previously visited Israel arrested as alleged spy

Tehran says Stockholm has ‘supported several proxy spies’ for Israel; Swedish court recently sentenced an Iranian ex-prison official to life for war crimes

Illustrative photo of a person in handcuffs. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Illustrative photo of a person in handcuffs. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

TEHRAN — Iran said on Saturday it had arrested a Swedish national on allegations of espionage, without providing details on the suspect’s identity nor the date of their detention.

The statement said the suspect was in touch with several other figures in Iran, and has visited Israel, Iran’s foe. The statement accused Sweden of proxy spying for Israel.

There was no immediate response from Sweden.

The announcement came amid diplomatic tensions between Tehran and Stockholm, after a Swedish court sentenced a former Iranian prison official to life for war crimes during mass executions in the Islamic republic in 1988.

On Saturday, Iran’s intelligence ministry said it had “identified and arrested a national of the Kingdom of Sweden suspected of espionage.”

In early May, the Swedish foreign ministry said a Swede in his 30s had been arrested in Iran.

It was not immediately clear if the announcement on Saturday referred to that man or another Swede.

“In all the previous trips, the suspect… communicated with a number of European and non-European suspects who were under surveillance in Iran,” the statement read.

“The suspect in question re-entered the country a few months ago after the arrest of another European spy” to collect information, it alleged, adding the suspect had been taken into custody while leaving Iran.

The intelligence ministry said the suspect had visited Israel, the Islamic republic’s arch-enemy, before going to Iran.

It also alleged Sweden had “supported several proxy spies” for Israel, including Ahmadreza Djalali, a Swedish-Iranian academic sentenced to death in the Islamic republic.

A flyer during a protest outside the Iranian embassy in Brussels for Ahmadreza Djalali, an Iranian academic detained in Tehran for nearly a year and reportedly sentenced to death for espionage, February 13, 2017. (Dirk Waem/Belga/AFP)

Djalali’s sentence was issued in 2017 after he was convicted of passing information about two Iranian nuclear scientists to Israel’s Mossad spy agency that led to their assassinations.

He was granted Swedish citizenship the following year.

His case was followed by the trial in Stockholm of Hamid Noury, a former official in Iran’s judiciary accused of war crimes over the killing of prisoners in Iran during the 1980s.

Noury received a life sentence from a Swedish court on July 14. Iran dismissed the verdict as “political” and has called for his release.

Relations between the two countries have been strained over the case, with Tehran recalling its ambassador to Sweden for consultations a week later.

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