Sweden charges former China envoy over dissident bookseller case

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Swedish prosecutors said on Monday they had brought criminal charges against the country’s former ambassador to China over unauthorized meetings in Stockholm aimed at freeing dissident bookseller Gui Minhai.

Anna Lindstedt was replaced as ambassador in February amid a furore over her alleged role in setting up the meetings with people representing the Chinese government, which Sweden’s foreign ministry said had not been authorized.

Gui, a Hong Kong-based publisher of books critical of China’s communist leaders and also a Swedish citizen, was abducted in Thailand in 2015 and later appeared in custody in mainland China.

“The ambassador is suspected of having acted outside the bounds of the authority granted to her during a meeting on a consular matter regarding the Swedish citizen Gui Minhai who is currently imprisoned in China,” the prosecution authority said.

Prosecutor Hans Ihrman said it was the first time in Sweden’s modern history that a diplomat had been charged with such a crime.

Lindstedt’s lawyer said that she rejected the accusation.

“Anna Lindstedt repeats her very clear belief that the suspicions leveled against her are without basis and regrets the decision to bring charges,” lawyer Conny Cedermark said in a written statement to Swedish news agency TT.

Cedermark could not immediately be reached by Reuters for comment.

Sweden’s Foreign Ministry said its internal investigation into Lindstedt’s conduct had been suspended while the legal case proceeded.

The Stockholm meetings took place in January this year. Gui’s daughter Angela said in her blog that she had been invited by Lindstedt to meet two unidentified businessmen who could help secure her father’s release.

Gui said she was advised to keep quiet about her father’s case while negotiations were proceeding.

Sweden’s Foreign Ministry said neither it nor the foreign minister had been informed of the meeting until afterwards.

Gui, 55, became a Swedish citizen after studying there in the 1980s.

After his 2015 abduction, he was released in October 2017, but his whereabouts were unclear until January last year when his daughter said he was seized by Chinese agents on a Beijing-bound train in the presence of Swedish diplomats.

China later confirmed it had detained him again. Beijing says Gui is being held on suspicion of revealing state secrets and intelligence on China.

Stockholm has accused China of preventing Sweden giving consular support to Gui, which Beijing rejects. Relations between the two countries have turned frosty.

In November, China’s ambassador to Sweden threatened to blacklist Swedish Minister of Culture Amanda Lind for attending a literary award ceremony in Stockholm where Gui was honored.

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