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Russian Arms Researcher Called Spy

December 27, 2001

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MOSCOW (AP) _ A Russian arms control researcher being tried for espionage told the court in a closed-door trial Thursday that the charges against him were absurd, his lawyer said.

Igor Sutyagin, a scholar at Moscow’s prestigious USA and Canada Institute, was arrested in October 1999 on suspicion of passing information on the development of new-generation submarines and the combat-readiness of Russia’s nuclear weapons and missile attack warning systems to a British company set up as a cover for CIA. Prosecutors have demanded he serve 14 years in a high-security prison.

Sutyagin has pleaded innocent, saying the analyses he wrote were all based on open sources. On Thursday, he told the court in Kaluga, about 100 miles south of Moscow, that the espionage charges were ``absurd″ and he asked for full acquittal, said defense lawyer Vladimir Vasiltsov.

Sutyagin never had access to classified information and he disagrees with the prosecutors’ apparent conviction that reading publicly available literature is a crime, Vasiltsov said.

He said that the court could make a ruling in the case as early as Thursday evening, but he stressed that it might be an order for further investigation.

Sutyagin’s trial is one of a number of recent alleged espionage and treason cases that human rights advocates say are intended to discourage Russian researchers from maintaining contacts with foreigners. On Tuesday, military journalist Grigory Pasko was sentenced to four years in prison for illegally attending a meeting of top military brass and possessing notes he made there. The court said he intended to pass on the information to Japanese media.

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