By DAVID KEYTON
STOCKHOLM (AP) — A Swedish court on Friday sentenced a 46-year-old Iraqi man to 2 1/2 years in prison on charges of spying for Iran by gathering information about Iranian refugees in Sweden, Denmark, Belgium and the Netherlands.
The man, identified as Raghdan al-Hraishawi in court documents, was convicted by the Stockholm District Court of carrying out illegal intelligence activities by collecting information about minority Iranian Arabs, known as Ahvazis.
Sweden’s intelligence agency said al-Hraishawi, who has both Iraqi and Swedish citizenship, was arrested on Feb. 27. He denied the charges and claimed he only was working as a reporter. Parts of his trial were held behind closed doors.
Al-Hraishawi obtained permanent residence in Sweden in 2009, according to the verdict, obtained by The Associated Press.
In its decision, the court said al-Hraishawi, 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 Ahvazis.
His activities “may have caused a large number of opposition Ahvazis or their relatives to be persecuted, seriously injured or killed,” hence the crime was being assessed “as serious,” it said.
According to the court, the investigation showed the man’s spying activities lasted over a period of four years, ending in February.
He is said to have had contacts within the Iranian intelligence service and Judge Tomas 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.
The Iraqi man’s activities have “been going on for a long time. The crime has therefore been assessed as serious,” the court said.
During the trial, prosecutors said the man had photographed and filmed Ahvazi gatherings and demonstrations in Belgium, the Netherlands and Sweden. ___
Associated Press writer Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark, contributed to this report.