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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Moiseyev's Spying Trial To Start All Over Again

Accused spy Valentin Moiseyev arrived at the Moscow City Court on Wednesday expecting to give his final statement — the last stage in his 2 1/2 month trial before the verdict. Instead, he was ushered into a new courtroom with a new judge and told the trial would start from the beginning.

The official reason for the change was that the first judge, Tatyana Gubanova, had fallen ill. But Moiseyev’s supporters question the legality of the move and say Gubanova simply ducked out of the politically charged case out of desperation.

"This seems like a diplomatic illness," Moiseyev’s wife, Natalya Denisova, said in a telephone interview. "The judge found a way out because she had nothing to build a guilty verdict on, but they wouldn’t let her acquit him."

Moiseyev, a former Foreign Ministry official, was arrested in July 1998 on charges of revealing state secrets to a South Korean diplomat, who the Federal Security Service, or FSB, alleges was a spy.

A year later while the case was still pending trial, Vladimir Putin, who at the time headed the FSB, told the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda that Moiseyev’s guilt was proven without a doubt. Moiseyev’s supporters say the former diplomat was effectively branded a traitor by the future president.

The Moscow City Court convicted Moiseyev of having spied for South Korea from 1992 to 1998. That conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court, which ruled that the lower court was too vague about what secrets Moiseyev gave away, and ordered the case to be heard by a different judge in the Moscow City Court. That trial began Sept. 5.

Moiseyev’s lawyers, Anatoly Yablokov and Yury Gervis, say both trials have been fraught with procedural violations. For example, Moiseyev has not been given an opportunity to read the charges against him and is being prosecuted by a military prosecutor, despite the fact that he is not in the military.

The lawyers say the decision to hand the case to a new judge constitutes yet another violation. The criminal procedural code does not allow for a judge to transfer a case that far into the trial, Interfax quoted Gervis as saying. The court on Wednesday declined the defense’s motion protesting the decision.

Naum Nim, editor of the human rights journal Index/Dosye na Tsenzuru, which posts detailed updates on the Moiseyev case on its web site, said the judge likely left because of the media attention the case has attracted.

"Wherever you look there are violations in this case. Society’s attention has focused on the case, so the judge decided to avoid responsibility," he said.

A recess was declared until Friday to give the new judge enough time to read the materials in the case. But Denisova said she was skeptical that one day would be enough time to study all the volumes.

"It’s clear that the verdict has been programmed and the trial will be another farce," she said.