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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Top Court Supports Deported American

The Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that an American citizen deported in 1997 should be allowed to appeal the decision by the Federal Security Service to expel him from the country on suspicion of espionage.

The Supreme Court overturned the decisions of three previous courts barring Kent David Lee, 39, from protesting his expulsion. The court found the arguments of the Federal Security Service, or FSB, not convincing enough to prove that Lee qualified for deportation.

Lee, who ran an information services and publishing company in Moscow from 1992-95, was summoned to the FSB's offices in November 1997 and told he had to leave Russia within 24 hours. He was given no explanation.

The FSB later said Lee's firm, East View Publications, was involved in obtaining classified files. FSB documents subsequently obtained by Lee's lawyers said that the main problem was that Lee's firm was publishing World War II-related materials.

"Turning it all into an espionage case was ridiculous," Lee, speaking by telephone from Minneapolis, said of the FSB's attempts to portray his firm as a front agency for the CIA. He said his company was involved in providing information about Russia to Westerners, mainly academic researchers.

Once in the United States, Lee appealed his deportation in Moscow's Meshchansky district court through his Moscow-based lawyers, but the court declined his protest in December 1999. The decision of the Meshchansky court was confirmed by the Moscow city court and the presidium of the city court in March 2000 and December 2001, respectively, Lee's lawyer Boris Kuznetsov said.

Following these decisions, Lee appealed to the Supreme Court.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court ruled that the documents presented by the FSB do not contain any evidence of wrongdoing by Lee that could lead to him being expelled.

An FSB representative at the hearing declined to comment.

Kuznetsov praised the court's decision. "This is the first breakthrough in a case that has been dragging on for five years," he said.

Kuznetsov said the only previous positive development was in 1999 when the Meshchansky court obliged the FSB to present its documents detailing the reasons for Lee's deportation. "It took us a year and a half to find out what the reasons for the expulsion were," said Kuznetsov, who now plans to go back to the Meshchansky court to appeal the deportation decision.

Lee said he would like to come back to Russia, where he still has an office. He said he is not sure whether he would sue the FSB. "I'm a businessman. I'm not interested in fighting the FSB," he said.