Sweden Jails Man for Spying on Ahwazi Community for Iran

STOCKHOLM, Dec 20 (Reuters) – An Iraqi Swede was sentenced to 2-1/2 years in prison on Friday for spying on the Ahwazi community in Sweden and elsewhere in Europe and passing information to Iranian authorities, potentially exposing members of the group to harm.

The Ahwazi are an ethnic Arab minority mostly living in the Iranian province of Khusestan and face persecution and discrimination from authorities there, according to Amnesty International.

Unrest in Khusestan goes back at least 100 years when the local leader rebelled against Reza Shah Pahlavi.

In 2018, the Ahwaz National Resistance, which seeks a separate state in Khuzestan, claimed responsibility for an attack on a parade in the regional capital of Ahvez that killed 25 people. Iran arrested hundreds of Ahwazi Arabs.

“The defendant’s activities and surveillance of Ahwazis may cause a large number of opposition Ahwazis or their relatives persecution, serious injury or death,” Stockholm District court said in a statement. “This intelligence operation has been systematic and has been going on for a long time.”

The 46-year-old man collected personal information about members of the Ahwazi community under the pretence of working for an online publication, the court said.

The man had denied the charges.

The man’s activities included filming conference delegates and demonstrators at Ahwazi events in Sweden and around Europe, photographing number plates and obtaining internet log-in details of members of the community between 2015 and 2019.

(Reporting by Johan Ahlander; Editing by Giles Elgood)