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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Court Panel Backs FSB In Physicists' Spy Case

A panel of court experts in Novosibirsk has determined that two brothers revealed state secrets in a booklet they wrote about the Novosibirsk Institute of Applied Physics, the Federal Security Service said in a statement Tuesday.

In an open letter sent to major news outlets last week, civil liberties activists called for the federal human rights ombudsman, Vladimir Lukin, and the Prosecutor General's Office to intervene in the case of the two, physicists Oleg and Igor Minin.

The FSB statement said an investigation into the Minins' activities had been opened in April, although neither had yet been charged. The brothers have remained in Novosibirsk after promising authorities not to leave the city during the investigation.

If charged and convicted of divulging state secrets, the Minins would face up to seven years in prison.

The allegations stem from a book the brothers wrote last year dedicated to the 40th anniversary of the Institute of Applied Physics of the Siberian branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, which was founded by their father, Vladilen Minin. Both sons worked at the institute at one time.

The state security department at Novosibirsk Technical University, where the Minins currently work, initially cleared the manuscript for publication, NTV television reported Monday.

Once printed, however, all 50 copies of the book, which was dedicated to their father, were seized by the FSB.

The FSB has charged that the secrets were divulged in a chapter about optical and radio-electronic methods for cloaking weapons and military hardware.

The Minins maintain that all of the information in the chapter came from open sources, including books already in publication, their lawyer, Lev Bauman, told journalists in Novosibirsk last week.

Mikhail Knizhin, who is also representing the Minins, said Tuesday that he would demand that a group of independent experts be allowed to review the FSB case against the scientists, Interfax reported.

Ernst Chyorny, a member of the Public Committee to Protect Scientists, a Moscow-based human rights watchdog, said in an interview published Tuesday in the Gazeta daily that the case against the Minins was the FSB's response to its failure to implicate another Novosibirsk scientist earlier this year.

The FSB charged that chemist Oleg Korobeinichev sold state secrets to the United States. Prosecutors cleared Korobeinichev when he was able to prove that, although it came from a U.S. Army research program, his funding was part of a grant that was legal under Russian law.

The press office of the Novosibirsk branch of the FSB declined to comment when reached by telephone Tuesday.