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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Swiss Court Keeps Adamov in Prison

APFormer Nuclear Power Minister Yevgeny Adamov
Switzerland's Federal Supreme Court has ruled that former Nuclear Power Minister Yevgeny Adamov must remain in jail pending extradition requests from the United States and Russia, the Swiss justice ministry said Tuesday.

The high court ruled in favor of the ministry, which had appealed a lower court's decision to set Adamov free.

"Yevgeny Adamov therefore remains in custody pending extradition," the Swiss Federal Office of Justice said in a statement.

Adamov was arrested in Switzerland on May 2 on an extradition request from the United States, where he faces charges that he embezzled $9 million in U.S. aid intended for improvement of Russia's nuclear safety while he was nuclear power minister in 1998-2001.

The U.S. request was followed by one from Moscow, amid Russian fears that Adamov could divulge nuclear secrets to the Americans.

The General Prosecutor's Office charged Adamov with fraud and abuse of office in May. On Sunday, Audit Chamber chief Sergei Stepashin said he would open an investigation into Adamov's possible role in delays in Iran's controversial Bushehr nuclear power plant, which is being built by Russia.

Adamov denies any wrongdoing and expects to return to Russia as a free man, his lawyer, Timofei Gridnev, said by telephone.

It was not clear when the decision on Adamov's extradition will be made, Rudolf Wyss, a spokesman for the justice ministry, said by telephone from Geneva.

"It all depends on what his [Adamov's] lawyers bring forward as arguments. Normally, it is a matter of one to two months to decide on such an extradition," he said.

Wyss said Adamov's case was complicated by the two rival extradition requests, and that the ministry would have to consult existing treaties. Adamov would have 30 days from the date of publication of the extradition decision to lodge an appeal with the Federal Supreme Court.

Wyss said that his office would weigh all arguments put forth by the U.S. and Russian sides, including any information emerging from the Audit Chamber's Bushehr probe.

"If the Russian prosecution finds they have to open a new point of accusation against Adamov with regards to Iran, they have to notify us. We will take it into consideration too," Wyss said.

The Audit Chamber said Monday that the probe had not begun yet.

In 1998, Adamov set up Atomstroiexport, the company which is building the $1 billion Bushehr nuclear plant, which Washington says is being used as a cover for Iran's nuclear weapons program.

"Theoretically, we cannot rule out that Stepashin's comments [on Bushehr] have been made to make Russia's claims against Adamov look stronger, thus proving the necessity of his extradition to Russia," said Ivan Safranchuk, head of the Moscow office of the Washington-based Center for Defense Information. "Yet, there are a lot of anti-Adamov people in Russia who would like to see cases against him started."

While Switzerland's high court ruled that Adamov should stay in custody for now, it returned two other questions for deliberation by the Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona: whether Adamov holds diplomatic immunity and whether the U.S. charges are politically motivated.

The Bellinzona court originally ruled that Adamov should not have been arrested, as he enjoyed safe conduct because he had traveled to Bern in order to answer questions before a judge investigating a money-laundering case linked to his daughter Irina, a resident of Switzerland.

The supreme court, however, ruled that Adamov could not claim that his detention violated the principle of safe conduct.

"He appeared voluntarily for questioning before an investigating judge in Bern and himself made the decision to come to Switzerland, independent of the questioning," the justice ministry said.