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Russia Urged To Free U.S. Prisoner

December 7, 2000

MOSCOW (AP) _ U.S. businessman Edmond Pope’s defense team called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to free him from jail on Thursday, a day after a Moscow court sentenced him to 20 years in a maximum-security prison for espionage.

Defense lawyer Pavel Astakhov said that Putin would have ``no choice″ if President Clinton were to appeal for clemency.

``And in this case, the U.S. president has already repeatedly made such a request. If it’s formulated as a petition for clemency, then the international practice, principles and the laws of diplomacy, as you will, leave no choice for our political leaders,″ Astakhov told the Associated Press.

Pope’s wife Cheri spent the day meeting with the U.S. ambassador to Moscow, James Collins, and other embassy officials as well as with her husband’s lawyers.

Pope has not decided whether to appeal the sentence before Russian courts, Astakhov said. Through his lawyer, he said during the trial that he had no faith in the fairness of the Russian legal system.

Pope, a retired U.S. Navy officer, was convicted of illegally obtaining classified blueprints of a high-speed underwater torpedo, the Shkval. Ever since his April 3 arrest, he has insisted on his innocence, saying that the plans were not secret because they had already been sold abroad and were published.

He and his family have also said repeatedly that he should be freed because of his poor health. Pope has suffered from a rare form of bone cancer, which was in remission when he traveled to Russia this year but which his family fears may have returned.

Pope is the first U.S. citizen to be convicted of espionage in Russia since U2 pilot Francis Gary Powers was shot down in 1960. He was exchanged for a Soviet spy convicted in the United States.

Pope, 54, of University Park, Pa., is the founder of CERF Technologies International, a company specializing in studying foreign maritime equipment.

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