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Monday, 5 March, 2001, 19:47 GMT
US court orders detention of 'spy'
Robert Hanssen's home in Virginia
Hanssen's house in Virginia was searched by the FBI
A court in the American state of Virginia has ordered that a veteran FBI agent accused of spying for Moscow should remain in detention while his case proceeds.

US district Judge Theresa Buchanan said there was an "extraordinarily strong case" against Robert Philip Hanssen.

She said he posed "a severe risk of flight" because of the nature of the allegations against him and could threaten security.

Russian Embassy in Washington
Hanssen may have informed Moscow about a 'spy tunnel' under its embassy in the US
The detention hearing came as Moscow demanded details about a secret tunnel reportedly built under the Soviet embassy in Washington in the 1980s by US intelligence.

The New York Times says Mr Hanssen may have betrayed the operation.

The counter-intelligence specialist is accused of giving highly-sensitive information to the Soviet Union, and then Russia, since 1985 in exchange for $1.4m in money and diamonds.

Washington believes Mr Hanssen - an FBI agent for 27 years - passed 6,000 pages of top-secret documents to Moscow, including the names of double agents and American surveillance methods.

'Clear danger'

Mr Hanssen was arrested on 18 February, minutes after he had allegedly left a package under a wooden footbridge at a park in northern Virginia.

The former FBI agent is being held at an undisclosed detention centre and prosecutors say the risk of releasing him is too great.

"Given his prior access, his expertise as a counter-intelligence specialist, and his clear willingness to betray his position of high trust, Hanssen poses a clear and present danger that he will compromise a additional information of a sensitive and classified nature," prosecutors said in documents submitted to the court.

Among the evidence the prosecution says it will use against the former agent are letters to and from the Russian intelligence agency, a statement from his Swiss bank account and recordings of his conversations with the Russians.

Lawyers for Mr Hanssen are not expected to contest requests to formalise his detention. But they have reached an agreement with prosecutors to move the deadline for indictment to 21 May instead of Monday.

It has also been agreed that Mr Hanssen's lawyers will be given access to some of the government's evidence before the indictment.

The former agent could face the death penalty if found guilty.

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See also:

05 Mar 01 | Europe
'Spy tunnel' angers Russia
27 Feb 01 | Europe
Russia holds US 'spy' over drugs
06 Dec 00 | Europe
Russia jails US 'spy'
20 Feb 01 | Americas
Who's being spied on?
20 Feb 01 | Americas
Fifty years of spies
20 Feb 01 | Americas
FBI agent arrested for spying
05 Apr 00 | Europe
Analysis: Spymasters change focus
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