Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Jury Convicts Danilov in Retrial

Itar-TassValentin Danilov talking to reporters outside the courthouse Friday after a jury found him guilty of passing information to China.
A Krasnoyarsk jury on Friday convicted physicist Valentin Danilov of passing information to China in a retrial he called unfair because he was barred from arguing that the information was not secret.

A nonjury trial will start Wednesday to determine whether Danilov had divulged state secrets.

"None of the jury members could look me in the eyes," Danilov, 56, said by telephone Friday from Krasnoyarsk. "When someone does not look you in the eyes, it means that he has problems with his conscience."

The case is linked to a contract signed by Danilov, the former head of Krasnoyarsk Technical University's thermal physics center, with a Chinese company and a Chinese scientific institute in 1999 to test the influence of electromagnetic waves on satellites.

The Federal Security Service opened an investigation into Danilov in 2000, accusing him of sharing secret information with China. Danilov says the information was declassified in 1992, and his lawyers have collected open publications with similar information, as well as accounts from Danilov's colleagues and other specialists stating that the information Danilov is accused of sharing was no longer secret.

Fifteen months after the FSB opened its investigation, Danilov was charged with embezzling 466,000 rubles ($16,200) from the payment made by the Chinese partners to the university under the contract. Danilov denied the charge, saying the money went to pay the project's contractors.

The jury Friday also found Danilov guilty of embezzling the money.

The first treason trial ended in December with a jury clearing Danilov of all charges. Prosecutors appealed to the Supreme Court, which, citing procedural mistakes by Danilov's lawyers, ordered a retrial by a new jury in June.

"Unlike in the first trial, this time around we were not allowed to show the jury that the information was not classified, to show them publications," Danilov said. "For some obscure reason, Judge Andrei Afanasyev decided that this issue has to be considered in a separate trial without jury."

His defense lawyer Yelena Yevmenova said by telephone from Krasnoyarsk that the judge's questions to the jury were designed in a way to avoid any questions about whether the information was secret.

Yevmenova said the judge could still acquit Danilov if he decides the information was declassified, but added that there is little chance of that happening.

She said she will cite procedural violations, such as the court's failure to release a list of jury members before the trial, if the judge convicts Danilov in the nonjury trial.

If convicted of treason, Danilov faces 12 to 20 years in prison.

It will be up to the judge to decide the length of any prison sentence, a prosecutor in the case, Andrei Antsiferov, told Interfax on Friday. "This issue will be decided only by the judge, who will draw upon the information that will be provided by us and the defense," he said.

Danilov reiterated that he had drawn information from open sources for the Chinese project and that he had not embezzled any funds. He said he had been pressed by the time to complete the project and therefore withdrew cash from the university's accounts to pay the contractors.

"I understand that making cash payments violates financial regulations, but nobody goes to jail for this," Danilov said. "I did not take anything for myself."

The embezzlement charge carries a sentence of eight to 12 years in prison.

Human rights activists called Friday's verdict another example of the spy mania that has swept Russia and led to a string of treason and espionage investigations and trials involving Russian scientists and environment whistle-blowers.

"The jury's decision unequivocally disappointed us. We believe that Danilov's case is largely far-fetched and exemplifies the so-called spy mania in Russia," said Alexander Petrov of the Moscow office of Human Rights Watch, Interfax reported.

Lyudmila Alekseyeva, head of the Moscow Helsinki Group, said the change of heart by the second jury might be an indication of dirty tricks by the prosecution.

"The first jury clearly decided that Danilov is not guilty. But the second jury, whose composition raises serious questions, issued a guilty verdict," she told Interfax. "Something is wrong with the jury."

Danilov declined to comment on the jury's composition and its selection process.

Court officials could not be reached for comment.