A trial has opened in Sweden in the case of two Iranian-born Swedish brothers who have been charged with spying for Russia and its military intelligence service GRU for 10 years.
Peyman Kia, 42, and Payam Kia, 35, appeared before the Stockholm District Court on Friday to face accusations of having worked jointly to pass information to Russia between September 28, 2011, and September 20, 2021.
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Between 2014 and 2015, Peyman Kia worked for Sweden’s domestic intelligence agency and also for Sweden’s armed forces.
Sweden’s prosecutors allege that the data they gave the Russians originated from several authorities within the Swedish security and intelligence service, known by its acronym SAPO.
Swedish media said that Peyman Kia worked for the armed forces’ foreign defence intelligence agency, whose Swedish acronym is MUST, and reportedly worked with a top-secret unit under MUST, which was dealing with Swedish spies abroad.
Anton Strand, lawyer for the eldest man, said on Thursday his client continues to deny the accusations.
“He has been working in different positions for the Swedish government and has always done his best to do a good job in a very difficult environment,” Strand said.
Intelligence expert Joakim von Braun told Swedish broadcaster SVT as the trial opened that even though many details remain unknown, it appeared to be one of most damaging cases of espionage in Sweden’s history because the men compiled a list of all the employees within SAPO.
“That alone is a big problem because Russian intelligence focuses on human sources,” von Braun said.
Peyman Kia was arrested in September 2021 and his brother in November 2021. Both denied any wrongdoing, their defence lawyers told the court.
Payam Kia, 35, helped his brother and “dismantled and broke a hard drive which was later found in a trash can” when his brother was arrested, according to a charge sheet obtained by the Associated Press news agency.
The naturalised Swedish citizens face sentences up to life imprisonment if convicted.