Freed Russian scientist convicted for spying maintains innocence

Valentin DanilovBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A Russian scientist who was pardoned last week, after spending nearly a decade behind bars for allegedly spying for China, has dismissed the charges against him as “pure fantasy”. Physicist Valentin Danilov was arrested by the FSB, the Russian Federal Security Service, in February of 2001 and charged with conducting espionage in the service of the Chinese space program. At the time of his arrest, Danilov headed the Thermo-Physics Center at Russia’s Krasnoyarsk State Technical University (KSTU), located in Siberia’s third largest city. For several years leading up to his arrest, he conducted research on the impact of solar activity on the condition and performance of space satellites. During his lengthy trial, 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. Eventually, in November of 2004, a Russian Federal court found Danilov guilty of treason and sentenced him to 14 years in prison. He was supposed to be released in 2017. Earlier this month, 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. In his first public interview since his release, Danilov, 66, has said he intends to take his case against the Russian government to the European Court of Human Rights. Speaking to reporters as soon as he emerged from prison, the Russian scientist said: “I would truly appreciate it if someone finally told me what state secret I sold”. He went on to comment directly on Russian President Vladimir Putin: “Everybody would be the same as him in his place, because it is the court that makes the czar”, he said, employing a traditional Russian proverb. Danilov went on: “The problem is not one of law but of how the judging is done [...]. We have three branches of power: the legislative, the executive and the judiciary. There is a fight between the legislative and executive with the court in between. They should pull in different directions so that the court works well, but if they all pull in only one direction, then what?”. Asked by reporters whether he viewed himself as a political prisoner, he replied: “Absolutely. No money can compensate for 10 years of one’s life”. Danilov’s pardon was enthusiastically welcomed by some Russian scientists and human rights campaigners, who have argued for years that he should never have been convicted. Some activists went so far as to 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 told reporters that he planned to return to scientific research, but that he would consciously avoid satellite and space, the areas he was working on when he was accused of spying by the Russian authorities.

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3 Responses to Freed Russian scientist convicted for spying maintains innocence

  1. TFH says:

    Victim of paranoia. Interesting to know that the intel fight is so hot between Russia and China, something one does not hear about so often.

  2. slaiman shaya says:

    why are the chinese purchasing declassified information

  3. intelNews says:

    @slaiman shaya: Good question. Danilov has admitted that he sold the Chinese information, but claims that it was publicly available elsewhere. Admittedly, the Chinese have a lot of foreign currency to spare, so they have developed a reputation of being ‘big spenders’ in purchasing information from foreign sources. Alternatively, it could be the case that the Chinese purchased Danilov’s material knowing that it was publicly available elsewhere, as a way of cultivating a relationship with him, which could potentially lead to him providing them with better-quality material. [JF]

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