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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ericsson Worker Guilty of Selling Russia Secrets

STOCKHOLM, Sweden -- An engineer laid off from wireless equipment maker Ericsson was sentenced to eight years in prison Tuesday after he was convicted of spying for Russia by a Swedish court.

Afshin Bavand, 46, handed secret company documents to Russian intelligence agents last year, which could have harmed the Scandinavian country's national security, the Stockholm district court said.

The court classified the documents used as evidence in the trial and, in an unusual move, imposed a gag order preventing anyone involved in the trial from discussing the documents for 20 years.

Two of Bavand's co-workers at Ericsson were convicted of complicity in industrial espionage for gathering some of the information and giving it to Bavand. Mansour Rokkgireh, 44, and Alireza Rafiei Bejarkenari, 40, were sentenced to terms of three years and one year, respectively.

Swedish police arrested Bavand on Nov. 5 while he was meeting with a Russian diplomat whom prosecutors claimed was actually an intelligence agent.

Two Russian diplomats were expelled from Sweden as a result of the investigation and Moscow expelled two Swedish diplomats in retaliation.

Prosecutors said Bavand, who was laid off from Ericsson in August 2001, received tens of thousands of kronor as payment for passing thousands of secret documents to the agents.

The court said the documents contained "technical information with connection to mobile telephony and fixed telephony as well as to both existing and future systems."

It classified the documents seized in the investigation from the suspects' computers for two decades, saying the sensitive nature of the material cold cause harm to both military and civilian parts of Sweden's national defense.

Ericsson also makes radar systems for defense programs worldwide.

Bavand's defense lawyer Ola Salomonsson could not immediately be reached for comment but has said Bavand was not aware that his Russian contacts were agents. Salomonsson said Bavand gathered the information as background for business ideas he had.

When reached by The Associated Press, Mansour's lawyer, Bengt Soederstroem, had not read the verdict but said his client would likely appeal the sentence within three weeks.

Ericsson officials declined comment, saying they needed time to review the verdict.