MAGNITOGORSK, Russia (AP) _ President Vladimir Putin said Saturday that he will pardon American businessman Edmond Pope, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison after being convicted of espionage.
Putin, on a tour of industrial facilities in the Ural region, said he wanted to maintain good relations with the United States, which denounced Pope’s conviction as unwarranted and called for his swift release.
Putin did not give a specific date for Pope’s release, but said it would be some time after Dec. 14.
Putin said he discussed the case with President Clinton, who had expressed concern about Pope’s health. Putin said he assured the American president that Pope would be pardoned and released. He did not say when he spoke to Clinton.
A Moscow court sentenced Pope, a former U.S. navy intelligence officer, to a maximum prison term of 20 years this week on charges of obtaining information about a top-secret torpedo.
Pope insisted he was not a spy, and that information about the torpedo was freely available. The American businessman runs a company that specializes in technology information.
The Russian presidential pardons commission on Friday recommended that Pope be released and sent home, citing his recent bout of bone cancer and the poor health of his father.
Putin said Saturday that he could only agree with the opinion of such a respected body.