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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Sutyagin to Go on Trial for Treason

After spending 13 months in jail on treason charges, defense expert Igor Sutyagin is at last due to get his day in court.

The Kaluga division of the Federal Security Service finished its investigation and issued formal charges against Sutyagin, a resident of Obninsk, a former closed city in the Kaluga region, on Oct. 26.

The case has been sent to the regional court, but a trial date has not been set yet.

Sutyagin’s lawyers told journalists Tuesday they filed a motion for the case to be thrown out. They say the case is bogus since Sutyagin, a researcher on security issues at the USA and Canada Institute, could not have given away state secrets since he did not have access to them.

Lawyer Vladimir Vasiltsov said the final charges revolve around a British consulting firm that Sutyagin worked with. The lawyers declined to name the firm.

"Igor traveled to meetings there and brought them digests of the Russian press," Vasiltsov said.

Boris Kuznetsov, another lawyer, said the firm advises potential investors about Russian industries. He said the investigators had made no attempt to question representatives of the company.

Previous elements of the investigation appear to have been dropped. Vasiltsov said the final charges include no mention of Joshua Handler, a Princeton University researcher whose Moscow apartment was searched the day of Sutyagin’s detention.

The charges also include no mention of Sutyagin’s work in a study on military-civilian relations conducted by two Canadian universities. Pavel Podvig, an arms-control expert and a vocal supporter of Sutyagin, said the FSB earlier this year interrogated people Sutyagin had interviewed for the study.

Podvig said the FSB investigators spent the past year casting about for something to pin on Sutyagin — ever since they searched Sutyagin’s apartment and failed to find incriminating evidence.

After searching Sutyagin’s apartment on Oct. 27, 1999, investigators asked the researcher to accompany them to the Obninsk FSB department, where they held him illegally for two days before formally arresting him.

His lawyers say the case is bogus because the academic had no access to secrets.

Kuznetsov said the investigators told Sutyagin they knew he had not done anything wrong, but they needed his assistance to catch foreign spies.

In Article 275 of the Criminal Code, treason is defined as giving away state secrets or assisting a government or other foreign organization in hostile activities. Sutyagin is accused of doing both.

On the one hand, the charges say Sutyagin gave away information from classified sources without explaining where Sutyagin, whose status did not grant him access to such sources, could have gotten them, Vasiltsov said. He said the charges merely imply that "in his conversations with high-placed military officials" he could have received such information.

"They don’t go any further than ‘could have,’" the lawyer said.

On the other hand, the charges say Sutyagin analyzed information from open sources for use against Russia, Vasiltsov said. But the investigators did not provide evidence the British consulting agency — or any other foreigners Sutyagin was in contact with — are working against Russia, he said.

Instead, FSB specialists declared that "based on their research methods and the questions they asked, these people could be secret service agents," Kuznetsov said. "By that logic you could put the entire scientific community up for trial."

Like most spy cases, Sutyagin’s case is classified and is expected to be heard in a closed courtroom. If a case contains even one classified document, the whole case can be classified. Thus, the FSB can add its own internal documents to a case in order to classify it, a tactic Kuznetsov said was used with Sutyagin.