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Iran acknowledges arrest of Swedish citizen suspected of espionage

A photo taken on February 13, 2017 shows a flyer during a protest outside the Iranian embassy in Brussels for A poster from a protest in support of Ahmadreza Djalali, an Iranian academic detained in Tehran on 25 April 2016 [DIRK WAEM/AFP/Getty Images]
A poster from a protest in support of Ahmadreza Djalali, an Iranian academic detained in Tehran on 13 February 2017 [DIRK WAEM/AFP/Getty Images]

Iran has confirmed its arrest of a Swedish citizen on charges of espionage, two months after it was first reported by foreign media.

According to the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), a statement by Iran's intelligence ministry "announced that a citizen of the Kingdom of Sweden was arrested on espionage charges."

The state-affiliated Fars News Agency further quoted the ministry's statement as saying that "The suspect had been under surveillance by the intelligence ministry during several previous trips to Iran because of (their) suspicious behaviour and contacts…[and] for visiting cities that were entirely outside of tourist destinations."

The suspect – whose name and details have not been revealed – also reportedly had a history of travelling to the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories "before leaving for Iran."

READ: Iran arrests 2 Europeans for 'organisation of insecurity

In an email to the Reuters news agency, Sweden's Foreign Ministry said it is aware of the situation, with a spokeswoman stating that it is "a known and ongoing case which the Foreign Ministry has been working on for a while."

The Swedish citizen's arrest was first announced by news outlets back in May, but it was not directly or openly acknowledged by the Iranian government or its news agencies at the time.

The Swede's arrest and detention is part of a pattern long used by the Iranian government, in which it detains some foreigners on allegations of security threats or espionage, with the aim of using them as diplomatic leverage or revenge.

It comes at a time when relations between Tehran and Stockholm have deteriorated sharply, particularly after a Swedish court this month sentenced Hamid Nouri – a former Iranian official – to life in prison on charges of war crimes for the mass execution and torture of political prisoners at an Iranian prison in the 1980s.

READ: Iran detains foreigners for 'spying', UK denies its official held

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