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Clinton Welcomes Release of Pope

December 14, 2000

AYLESBURY, England (AP) _ President Clinton welcomed the release of American businessman Edwin Pope from a Russian prison Thursday and said ``it is important that humanitarian considerations prevailed in the end.″

The president said in a statement that he was appreciative of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to pardon Pope, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison after his conviction on espionage charges.

``Mr. Pope’s ordeal was unjustified,″ Clinton said.

Pope, of State College, Pa., has suffered in the past from a rare form of bone cancer, and his family feared that it may have returned. Russia’s Security Service, the agency that prosecuted Pope, said a prison doctor examined him before his release and pronounced his health ``normal.″

The pardon cited ``the health condition of the convict and his personal appeal, and also ... the high level of ties between the Russian Federation and the United States of America.″

In Moscow, a spokesman for Putin said Pope was pardoned on humanitarian grounds and to preserve good relations with Washington.

Asked about the chill in U.S.-Russian relations created by the Pope case, White House spokesman P.J. Crowley said, ``Obviously it’s something that President Putin has now put behind us.″

Clinton’s statement was released during his visit to Chequers, the country estate of British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

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