Russian court paroles scientist convicted of spying for China
November 19, 2012 1 Comment
By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A court in Siberia has issued a rare verdict to parole a Russian academic who was convicted in 2004 of conducting espionage on behalf of China. Russian physicist Valentin Danilov headed the Thermo-Physics Center at Russia’s Krasnoyarsk State Technical University (KSTU), which is located in Siberia’s third largest city. For several years prior to his arrest, he conducted research on the impact of solar activity on the condition and performance of space satellites. In 1999, Danilov was among the signatories of a lucrative contract between KSTU and the state-owned China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, which is the main contractor for the Chinese government’s space program. The contract stipulated that KSTU was to help China Aerospace evaluate the performance of artificial satellites in real-life space conditions. Less than two years later, in February of 2001, Danilov was arrested by the FSB, the Russian Federal Security Service, and charged with conducting espionage in the service of the Chinese space program. In his trial, which took place in 2003, Danilov admitted selling to the Chinese information on satellite technology belonging to the Russian government. But his defense team argued that the information in question had already been declassified and available in public sources since the early 1990s. Largely due to this argument, the jury acquitted Danilov of all charges at the end of 2003. However, by the middle of June of next year, the physicist had been arrested again, after the Russian Supreme Court overturned his earlier acquittal. In November of 2004, another court found Danilov guilty of treason and sentenced him to 14 years in prison. He was supposed to be released in 2017. Last week, however, a court in Krasnoyarsk found that, since Danilov had served most of his prison sentence in good behavior, and since his health was weak, he would be released early. The announcement was greeted by some Russian scientists and human rights campaigners, who have argued for years that Danilov should never have been convicted. In some cases, activists accuse the Kremlin of pressuring the court to convict Danilov for political reasons, namely to reinforce Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “attempts to intimidate academics with ties to other countries”. Danilov, who was born in 1951, has yet to comment on the three-year reduction of his sentence. He is expected to be released sometime this week, but he will officially remain obligated to abide by the terms of his parole until 2017, when his original sentence will expire.