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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Pope Prosecution May Be Switched

Authorities sought Monday to switch the main prosecutor in the trial of suspected U.S. spy Edmond Pope.

The Prosecutor General’s Office said it had petitioned the court to replace Oleg Plotnikov as chief trial prosecutor because he’d suffered a heart attack and was hospitalized.

But defense lawyer Pavel Astakhov linked the illness to reports that Plotnikov’s son was involved in the initial probe into Pope.

"Under Russian criminal law it is prohibited to take part in a trial if somebody has a family member involved in the case," Astakhov said by telephone.

He said the trial had been suspended pending a defense petition to remove Plotnikov, adding that a ruling in the defense’s favor would mean a retrial.

In comments broadcast on NTV, Astakhov challenged Plotnikov’s would-be replacement, Yury Volgin, to confirm the family link was behind the change.

Volgin sidestepped the question: "I am not checking on family relationships, and any comments … can be made by me only during the trial."