Swedish Uyghur Arrested on Charges of Espionage

On 4 June 2009, the Swedish Security Police (Säpo) arrested a Uyghur man in Stockholm on charges of espionage. The man in question, whose identity is otherwise undisclosed, is 61 years of age, received asylum from Sweden in the late 1990s, and became a Swedish citizen in 2002.

According to statements by a Säpo Chief Inspector, the suspect’s activities, conducted from January 2008 through June 2009, were not limited to Sweden. In Sweden, he is accused of being responsible for collecting information on Uyghur immigrants on behalf of the Chinese government. Sweden is home to a vibrant Uyghur community, including Küresh Kösen, who passed away in 2006, and more recently Adel Hakimjan, formerly a Guantánamo detainee and resident of Albania, who received asylum earlier this year. The historical connections between Sweden and Xinjiang run long and deep, and knowledge about Xinjiang is widespread in Sweden.

Formal charges must be leveled against the suspect by 18 June, at which time we should know more about the situation. In the meantime, Radio Free Asia, which makes a point of the suspect’s fluent Chinese, has been receiving calls from members of the Swedish Uyghur community reporting various unspecified suspicions about the man’s identity.

We may speculate more sympathetically, perhaps, about the man’s motives. It is, of course, entirely possible that this individual was sent by the PRC some years ago to keep tabs on members of the Uyghur community, that he is a mole and a shill for the Chinese state. I wonder, though, if he does not have family in Xinjiang, family who may be unable to follow him and whom the Public Security Bureau might harm if he does not follow their orders. It would be remarkable, I suppose, for someone who has spied in several countries to be a minor player in a larger game. It is worth noting, however, that he is accused of spying only over the course of the past year and six months. Do people usually begin their intelligence careers at the age of 59 or 60? Rather, I think that he is a typical example of “refugee espionage”: someone who is blackmailed into spying for their home country. It seems that this is a common problem in Sweden, and it is sad to see that a country that has accepted so many people in need has also taken on so many security risks, as well.

The New Dominion will keep you updated.

Sources:

8 June 2009 (Radio Free Asia) “Sweden arrests Uyghur who spied for China

6 June 2009 (The Local) “‘Refugee spy’ remanded into custody

4 June 2009 (The Local) “Security police arrest ‘refugee spy’

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Comments 1

  1. JFF wrote:

    Considering the comparatively small number of Uighurs in Sweden and that most of them are below 60 years of age it is not difficult to guess who the arrested is. When it comes to the question of Sweden taking on “security risks” you have to remember that Sweden is an “open country”, and that official Sweden is highly transparent. I would be happy if we could only take those really in need, but it is unavoidable to not accept a few others as well.

    Posted 12 Jun 2009 at 3:49 pm

Trackbacks & Pingbacks 1

  1. From The New Dominion » Follow-Up: Swedish Uyghur Accused of Espionage for China – Sweden and China Duel Diplomats on 24 Jun 2009 at 12:53 pm

    [...] On 4 June 2009, the Swedish Security Police (Säpo) took into custody a 61-year-old Uyghur man, a fo… Now, that man’s identity has finally been revealed. Radio Free Asia reports that the suspected spy is Babur Mexsut (Mäxsut), a figure of some prominence in the international Uyghur independence movement. [...]

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