Pope's Wife Will Return to Moscow

The wife of Edmond Pope, a U.S. businessman being tried in Moscow on espionage charges, said Tuesday that if her husband was found guilty she would return to Russia to be close to him.

Cheri Pope was in Moscow on her third visit since her husband was arrested in April on charges of trying to acquire secret material on Russian high-speed torpedoes.

The prosecution is seeking a 20-year sentence against Pope, whose health has been frail, and a verdict is expected some time this week.

"If there is a guilty verdict I will want to be on my own for a while to think about it ... and then I will come back to be with my husband," Cheri said in an interview.

"I'd just like to get it over with now...and we will ask the judge to finish the procedure," she said in a soft voice, wiping a tear from her eye occasionally. "Ed is very tired and so am I at this stage."

Cheri was speaking after a briefing with her husband's defence lawyer, Pavel Astakhov, at a Moscow hotel.

Pope, a former naval intelligence officer, has said he was researching openly available military technology.


Itar-Tass quoted Astakhov as saying the court had given Cheri permission to meet her husband Tuesday.

Pennsylvania Republican Congressman John Peterson, who accompanied her to Moscow, said the party would be going to the notorious Lefortovo prison later in the day.

Peterson said that if the 54-year-old businessman was found guilty they would appeal to the Russian and U.S. presidents to resolve the situation and allow him to go home.

"We will collectively ask Mr Putin to resolve this issue with President Clinton quickly so that Ed can get the medical treatment he needs and be reunited with his family," Peterson said.

The case has become a thorn in the side of U.S.-Russian relations.

Clinton has personally asked for Pope to be freed on health grounds, but Putin has said the judicial process must run its course before he can consider a pardon or an early release.

Astakhov and Cheri have both said a 20-year jail term would amount to a "death sentence" for Pope, who is in remission from a rare form of bone cancer. Russian doctors have insisted the businessman is fit enough to stand trial.


"(This family's) life stopped 245 days ago...months go by when there are no letters and they are not able to talk to each other on the phone," Peterson said.

The congressman added that Pope's son had married while his father was in prison and Cheri said the last eight months had been very tough for the family.

"We had Thanksgiving dinner a couple of weeks ago and it was a very unhappy occasion without Ed there," she said.

Pope's defence lawyers issued their final appeal Friday and Itar-Tass said Pope would make his last statement to the court Wednesday. The court's verdict will follow.

The case has been held behind closed doors. But Astakhov said last week he hoped Cheri and others would be allowed to attend the announcement of the verdict in public.