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Russian nuclear expert convicted of spying
Updated: 2004-04-06 09:09

A Russian nuclear weapons expert accused of passing secrets to the United States and Britain was found guilty of treason Monday, Russian news agencies reported.

A Moscow policeman escorts Sutyagin to a courtroom in September 2002. [AP]
Igor Sutyagin, an arms expert from Moscow's respected USA-Canada Institute, could receive a prison term of up to 20 years from a judge in the Russian capital. The judge is due to pass sentence Tuesday.

"The jury were unanimous in finding him guilty," Sutyagin's lawyer Boris Kuznetsov was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency. "Moreover only four of them felt he deserved leniency. Most -- eight -- came to the conclusion that he did not."

Sutyagin has been held since his arrest in October 1999. His trial was halted in December 2001 so prosecutors could gather more evidence against him.

He was accused of passing state secrets about plans for the development of Russia's nuclear forces, as well as information on planes and missiles, to foreign intelligence agents working for a consulting firm called Alternative Futures.

His lawyers said the information was all in the public domain and there was no proof that the staff of Alternative Futures included foreign spies.

Sutyagin was one of several Russian researchers and journalists accused of spying in separate cases brought since President Vladimir Putin came to power in 2000.

The FSB, successor to the KGB secret police and once headed by Putin, said foreign intelligence services had taken advantage of Russia's difficulties after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and had stepped up espionage in the country.

Military reporter Grigory Pasko was sentenced in December 2001 to four years in prison. He was released in January 2003.

Jury trials, designed to deal with the most serious crimes, were reintroduced in Russia in 2002, having been abolished after the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. In Soviet times courts with a single judge and two assistants handled the gravest crimes.

But after Danilov's trial the FSB called into question the legitimacy of using a jury to decide the fate of spying cases.

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