Sweden jails Iraqi man for spying on exiled Iranian refugees

Spy posed as journalist to monitor refugees for Iran

An Iraqi spy has been jailed in Sweden after he was caught spying on Iranian refugees for Iran.
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An Iraqi spy has been jailed in Sweden for espionage after posing as a journalist to spy on exiled Iranians living in Europe.

Raghdan Al Hraishawi, 46, was convicted by the Stockholm District Court on Friday of carrying out illegal intelligence activities by collecting information about the Arab minority in Iran.

Over a four year period between April 2015 to February 2019 he collected personal information about opposition Iranians belonging to the Ahvazi community who were living in Sweden, Denmark, Belgium and the Netherlands.

He went undercover as a journalist in a bid to film and photograph the Iranian nationals on behalf of Iran.

He was arrested by Swedish security services in February.

Ahvazi Arabs have long faced persecution in Iran and the offending came at the same time as Iranian authorities arrested hundreds of political and minority rights activists from the Ahvazi community.

Judge Tomas Zander has sentenced him to two and a half years imprisonment.

In its decision, the court said Al Hraishawi, who is from a region in southeastern Iraq close to the border with Iran, acted under the cover of representing an Arabic online newspaper and used a tribal name when contacting Ahvazi's.

His activities “may have caused a large number of opposition Ahvazi or their relatives to be persecuted, seriously injured or killed," hence the crime was being assessed "as serious,” it said.

He is said to have had contacts within the Iranian intelligence service and Judge Zander said he communicated with his contacts through specific internet-based addresses and using special telephones.

The man also secretly met with his intelligence contacts, the judge said, adding that his activities have “been going on for a long time. The crime has therefore been assessed as serious".

A spokesperson for the Swedish Security Service said: "Refugee espionage is a very serious crime. Information gathered in this way is used, for instance, as a means to harass and intimidate regime critics and members of their families.

"It is a type of crime that undermines the democratic process as it prevents people who are already vulnerable from exercising their constitutional rights and freedoms in Sweden.

"The Swedish Security Service makes every effort to prevent and counter refugee espionage in Sweden."

Sweden's intelligence agency said Al Hraishawi, who has both Iraqi and Swedish citizenship, obtained permanent residence in Sweden in 2009.