Swedish ex-envoy acquitted of planning illegal China meeting

HELSINKI (AP) — A court has acquitted Sweden’s former ambassador to China of exceeding her authority in negotiations with a foreign country, concluding the first trial of its kind involving a Swedish diplomat in more than 200 years.

The Stockholm District Court ruled Friday that the prosecutor couldn’t prove that Anna Lindstedt, Sweden’s envoy to Beijing during 2016-2019, had gone beyond her jurisdiction and “negotiated in a diplomatic matter with someone who represented the interests of the Chinese state.”

The key issue in the trial was the allegation whether or not Lindstedt negotiated with persons who could be regarded as China's direct representatives. The Swedish Prosecution Authority said the ambassador was indicted on a charge of “arbitrariness during negotiations with a foreign power,” which carries a maximum punishment of two years in prison.

The charge resulted from a January 2019 meeting in Stockholm that Lindstedt, 60, brokered between the daughter of a Swedish publisher detained in China and two Chinese businessmen with links to China's Communist Party about the publisher's possible release.

The prosecution had alleged that China wanted to curtail Sweden’s democratic freedoms by trying to influence Angela Gui, the daughter of publisher Gui Minhai, to stop criticizing how China handled the case concerning her father.

Sweden’s Foreign Ministry said it had no advance knowledge of the meeting at the Sheraton Hotel Stockholm. Lindstedt was summoned home for an investigation the next month and replaced with a new Swedish envoy to Beijing.

During her trial, Lindstedt denied breaking the law and said she informed the Foreign Ministry about the meeting.

Swedish media reported that the case was the first time since 1794 that a Swedish diplomat had gone on trial for the alleged offense.

Gui Minhai, who was born in China and became a Swedish citizen, is a bookseller and publisher of several books on Chinese politics and politicians. He went missing in Thailand in 2015, and sometime later appeared in custody in mainlaind China.

The circumstances surrounding his detention remain unclear. He is still being held, which has strained Sweden’s already icy relations with China.