Ex-Diplomat Moiseyev Fights to Clear His Name

AP"To go through the entire legal system, you have to be a turtle, to live 300 years," says Moiseyev, who was convicted of spying.
Valentin Moiseyev was a successful career diplomat when security agents showed up at his door five years ago and turned his quiet life upside down.

More than six months after completing a prison term for spying for South Korea, Moiseyev is fighting to clear his name and says the government he once served never gave him a shot at justice.

Moiseyev and his supporters say the case was a product of an unreformed KGB-style security service, a judicial system skewed in favor of the state and officials' paranoid belief that Russia is surrounded by enemies. Human rights organizations say the trial was riddled with holes and crude legal violations.

Since the end of the Soviet Union, with its show trials and political prisoners, Russia has struggled to build a legal system based on principles such as the presumption of innocence and the right to a fair hearing. Rights groups point to cases like Moiseyev's as evidence that such reforms -- considered key to the success of Russia's democratic transition -- have yet to fully take root.

Gray-haired and gaunt from prison, Moiseyev, 57, has turned to the European Court of Human Rights and is suing authorities for violating his rights after his release. "To go through the entire judicial system, you have to be a turtle, to live 300 years," Moiseyev said during a recent interview, his deep voice breaking into a bitter laugh.

In 1999, Moiseyev was convicted of systematically gathering information on Russian-North Korean relations and transferring them to the South Korean intelligence agency over the course of 4 1/2 years.

Moiseyev's is among 13 espionage cases in post-Soviet Russia that human rights groups say are blatantly unfounded. Some ended in prison terms, some were dropped, and others are awaiting trial.

Moiseyev became a suspect simply because his work involved contacts with foreigners, said Lyudmila Alexeyeva, head of the Moscow Helsinki Group, a human rights organization.

Unless such cases are stopped, "our country will again become a closed society," she said.

Moiseyev was deputy director of a Foreign Ministry Asia desk and had lived in North and South Korea for 15 years. His nightmare began July 3, 1998, after a visit to his home by South Korean diplomat Cho Sung-woo.

Cho was then detained and expelled as a spy, with South Korea strongly protesting.

Hours after Cho's visit, Federal Security Service agents came for Moiseyev.

Investigators told him he would not need a lawyer, Moiseyev recalled, and he believed them. He did not get one until two weeks into his interrogation.

"I was so stunned, I couldn't understand what was happening," Moiseyev said. "I told them, 'I never spied and never had any intention to do so.' On the contrary, my whole life was devoted to defending the state's interests."

Moiseyev was sentenced to 12 years in prison in December 1999, but the Supreme Court granted him a retrial. The second verdict, in August 2001, differed little, but the sentence was cut to 4 1/2 years, in part for health reasons.

Before the first conviction, Vladimir Putin -- not yet president, but the head of the Federal Security Service -- told the daily Komsomolskaya Pravda that Moiseyev's guilt was beyond doubt. Moiseyev says the government thereby denied him the presumption of innocence.

Both trials were behind closed doors, but the verdicts, published on a Russian human rights web site, provide a glimpse into the thinking of the prosecutors and judges.

In both trials, an unsigned Korean-language document of unspecified origin was accepted as evidence of Moiseyev's spying. It allegedly describes a Russian informer, but does not explicitly name Moiseyev. Moiseyev's supporters insist it is a fabrication.

Another key piece of evidence supposedly proving espionage is the text of a lecture Moiseyev had delivered at an open, international conference, which he gave to Cho on the evening of his detention.

Moiseyev says the authorities have continued to violate his rights after his Dec. 31 release. Police demanded letters from his wife and daughter saying they had no objection to his living with them in the apartment he owns. They also required him to register as a potential repeat offender and inform them any time he left Moscow.

Moiseyev has a Ph.D. in economics, but the state employment agency has offered him only two jobs -- cloakroom attendant or factory worker. None of the 50 private recruiting firms to which he sent his resume has responded. Moiseyev believes his conviction has prevented his 24-year-old daughter Nadezhda, also a Korea specialist, from finding work in her field.