COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Sweden's top court said Tuesday it won't extradite a fugitive to China, saying he risks the death penalty, torture or degrading treatment that would violate the European Convention on Human Rights.
The Supreme Court said the extradition of Qiao Jianjun "cannot take place," adding it had informed the Swedish government of its ruling. There was no immediate reaction from the government.
Qiao, a former head of a grain storage facility in China, is accused of money laundering and embezzling millions of dollars, among other offenses.
He was initially detained in Sweden in August 2018 at China's request. He was released June 19 but detained again five days later at the request of the U.S. and remains detained pending a decision on whether he can be extradited there. In the United States, Qiao is wanted for money laundering in California in 2015.
"There is a risk that in China, he will be subjected to persecution for political reasons" and "will be sentenced to death and be subjected to torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment," the court said in its ruling.
"It is probable" that Qiao who had been opposing extradition, committed the alleged crimes in 2011, estimated to be worth up to 290 million kronor ($ 31 million), it said.
When Qiao was released in June, China's ambassador to Sweden, Gui Congyou, criticized the decision, telling Sweden's Expressen daily it was "inconceivable" he was released "based on speculation that he might be treated badly or risk the death penalty. It is disrespectful to the law."
The Swedish Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the issue.
Qiao who is also known as Feng Li, left China in 2011, moved to the United States and became a citizen of Saint Kitts and Nevis in 2012. He later moved to Sweden where he sought asylum in March 2019. No decision about his asylum bid has been made, according to a court document.
Swedish broadcaster SVT said he has been living in Sweden under a different name since 2015.
Relations between Stockholm and Beijing have been tense in past years.
China has rebuked Sweden for demanding the release of Hong Kong-based bookseller Gui Minhai, a naturalized Swedish citizen who was taken off a train by police in eastern China in January 2018 while in the company of two Swedish diplomats with whom he was traveling to Beijing.