Report: Russian arms control researcher convicted of espionage refuses to admit guilt in pardon plea

A Russian arms control researcher who is serving a 15-year sentence for espionage is willing to sign a plea for a presidential pardon but refuses to comply with the requirement that he admit his guilt, his lawyer was quoted Thursday as saying.

Igor Sutyagin, a scholar at Moscow's respected USA and Canada Institute, was arrested in 1999 on charges he sold information on nuclear submarines and missile warning systems to a British company that Russian investigators claimed was a CIA cover.

Sutyagin maintained the analyses he wrote were based on public sources and that he had no reason to believe the British company was an intelligence front.

In April 2004, a jury sentenced Sutyagin to 15 years in prison.

A number of prominent Russian scientists, human rights activists and cultural figures appealed last year to Russian President Vladimir Putin to free Sutyagin, the attorney, Anna Stavitskaya, said in an interview with the Interfax news agency.

A prosecution official visited Sutyagin last month and "strongly recommended that he submit a pardon plea on his own," said Stavitskaya.

The arms control expert did write to the Russian leader but said he was not ready to admit his guilt, and his plea was dismissed as "useless" by prosecution officials, the lawyer said.

International rights organizations including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have condemned Sutyagin's conviction, saying he did not get a fair trial.

They also said the Sutyagin case was just one among many aimed against Russian citizens working with foreigners in areas previously under security services' control, including nuclear waste dumping and defense-related issues.

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