Russian court upholds 15-year prison sentence for alleged CIA spy

Russia’s highest court has upheld a lengthy prison sentence given to a Russian arms control and nuclear weapons expert, who Moscow alleges was a spy for the United States. The Russian government accuses Igor Sutyagin of collaborating with Alternative Futures, a British-registered consulting company alleged by Moscow to be a front for the United States Central Intelligence Agency. Before his 1999 arrest, Sutyagin was Division Chairman on the Russian Academy of Sciences’ USA and Canada Institute. His indictment, prepared by the Russian Federal Security Service, said that he shared with the CIA “classified technical information” about nuclear submarine technology. Sutyagin maintained his innocence throughout his trial, and Human Rights Watch as well as Amnesty International classified him as a political prisoner. The two groups brought the accused spy’s case before the European Court of Human Rights, which ruled that Russian government prosecutors had violated Sutyagin’s right to a fair trial. Moreover, the Court ruled that Sutyagin’s pre-trial detention, which lasted five years, was illegal. Eventually, Moscow complied with the Court’s ruling and a retrial was ordered, to the delight of Sutyagin’s family. In the retrial, which ended last week, Russia’s Supreme Court agreed with the European Court of Human Rights that Sutyagin’s pre-trial detention had been unlawful; but the court upheld Sutyagin’s 15-yeard sentenced as “entirely legitimate”. Sutyagin was tried in absentia, however, because in the summer of 2010 he was released and fled to the West, as part of the largest postwar spy-exchange between Russia and United States. Sutyagin was one of four men behind bars in Russia, who were swapped for 10 Russian non-official-cover intelligence operatives that had been arrested in a sting operation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. A few weeks later he gave an interview from an undisclosed location in Britain, in which he dismissed accusations that he knowingly spied for the CIA and expressed his desire to return to Russia. He gave another interview in August 2010, in which he said he did not know why he had been selected by Washington to participate in the exchange with the Russian intelligence operatives that had been arrested in the US. By that time he appeared to have tempered his initial determination to return to Russia and join his family there. He said in the interview that “something in [London] is more humane and it is more pleasant to walk here than in Moscow […]. Maybe I’ll get over it” and stay in Britain after all.

We welcome informed comments and corrections. Comments attacking or deriding the author(s), instead of addressing the content of articles, will NOT be approved for publication.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: