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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

No Sweet St. Valentine's for Valentin

Accused spy Valentin Moiseyev is likely to celebrate his birthday next month as he has for the past two years — in prison.

The former diplomat, now facing a second retrial on espionage charges, will certainly be behind bars for Valentine's Day. But his supporters from several U.S. and Russian human rights organizations have declared Valentine's Day "Valentin's Day" and have launched a letter-writing campaign in Moiseyev's support.

The letters are pre-written "support valentines" to President Vladimir Putin, Constitutional Court Chairman Marat Baglai, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and Supreme Court officials, which can be found on a new web site created for the occasion.

The site at— prava is Russian for rights — was created by the Digital Freedom Network, a Newark, New Jersey-based rights group with the help of Russian groups including Index/Dosye na Tsenzuru and the Ecology and Human Rights Coalition.

"Valentine's Day was a good time to launch the web site. E-mail will operate as long as he is jail," Alan Brown, DFN assistant director and the initiator of the online campaign, said in a telephone interview from Newark on Tuesday.

Brown called prosecutors' case against Moiseyev a "travesty" and said he hopes the campaign will make Moscow understand that "the whole world is watching."

"I hope we can get enough voices Moscow will listen to … [and] will stop running the KGB-style campaign against this man," Brown said.

While he understands that Putin is unlikely to get any of these "valentines" personally, Brown said he hopes someone in the Kremlin and other agencies receiving the messages will read them.

This may require a change of heart by the Kremlin. A year after Moiseyev was arrested but while his case was still pending trial, Vladimir Putin, then the head of the Federal Security Service, said in an interview that Moiseyev's guilt was proved beyond a doubt.

Moiseyev, 54, was convicted in December 1999 of spying for South Korea from 1992 to 1998, and has been in Moscow's Lefortovo prison since his arrest in July 1998.

The Federal Security Service, or FSB, said a South Korean diplomat was caught with classified papers given to him by Moiseyev, but Moiseyev's lawyers insist that the document found on the Korean diplomat was the text of a lecture Moiseyev had delivered in public. The lawyers have complained repeatedly of procedural violations.

Moiseyev was sentenced to 12 years in prison, but the decision was overturned by the Supreme Court, which said the lower court had been too vague about what secrets Moiseyev had revealed and ordered a new trial.

DFN's Brown said the FSB's case was based on "virtually no evidence."

The "valentines" reiterate that Moiseyev's guilt has not been proved and that the Supreme Court has confirmed this but failed to acquit Moiseyev, whose supporters say the case is so politically charged judges are afraid to free him.

Shortly before the verdict was to be announced in Moiseyev's second trial, which lasted 2 1/2 months, the case was given to a new judge on the grounds that the previous judge had fallen ill.

Moiseyev's lawyers and supporters said the switch was aimed at dragging out the sensitive case in the absence of evidence to convict Moiseyev.

Last month, Moiseyev decided to boycott his own trial, calling it a "farce," and asked his lawyers to stop questioning witnesses and participating in his closed-door hearings.

Moiseyev's wife, Natalya Denisova, said his lawyers convinced him to end the boycott, as it could have complicated his already grim situation.

In a telephone interview Tuesday, Denisova said that the launch of the web site is one of the rare consolations her husband has had lately.

"The support of society and public opinion has great importance in such 'spy cases' as ours," Denisova said.

Moiseyev's case is just one of a series of high-profile espionage cases that have been seen as fraught with violations. Others include the cases of military men turned environmental whistle-blowers, Alexander Nikitin and Grigory Pasko, as well as defense researcher Igor Sutyagin.

Brown said the site was launched for Moiseyev, but it would continue operating after his release if the need exists.

"I have launched this site for a general problem," he said. "After Moiseyev is released, we are going to see if anyone else is on the chopping block."

Denisova said she is allowed to visit her husband once every two weeks and each time she msut get permission from the judge. Over his two years in prison, Moiseyev's health has deteriorated.

Moiseyev's next hearing is scheduled for Feb. 20, Denisova said. But she said she didn't want to do any guessing about the outcome.

"We tried that once already," she said, referring to the end of the first retrial, when Moiseyev and his supporters had hoped for an acquittal.

"And look what happened."