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The BBC's Linda Duffin
"Due to his ill health, Pope's family fear the sentence will effectively be a death penalty"
 real 56k

Victor Linnik, Editor in Chief, Slovo newspaper
"The spies are out there"
 real 56k

The BBC's Caroline Wyatt in Moscow
"One of the highest profile spy cases in recent years"
 real 56k

Saturday, 9 December, 2000, 01:08 GMT
Clinton urges Putin to free 'spy'
Edmond Pope
Pope's sentence may provoke a US political backlash
US President Bill Clinton has urged his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to pardon an American convicted of spying this week, in line with a Russian presidential commission recommendation.

The commission recommended freeing businessman Edmond Pope, sentenced to 20 years in prison for spying.

Pope is a sick man who has gone through a lot, and he should be let go

Commission head Anatoly Pristavkin

Commission head Anatoly Pristavkin said that the decision to make the recommendation was unanimous and that commissioners thought the 20-year sentence too harsh.

"We did not judge the ruling of the court", he said.

"We made our ruling on humanitarian grounds", Mr Pristavkin said.

Mr Pope suffers from a rare form of bone cancer.

But another commission member, Maria Chudakova, criticised the court process itself, saying it was more like the "Soviet system" than other elements of contemporary Russian society.

Home for Christmas?

In a separate development, Security Council chairman Sergey Ivanov was quoted by Russian media as saying that Mr Pope might be released in time for Christmas. He said he expected President Putin to act quickly to grant a pardon.

However, Mr Ivanov said that the president would not be able to pardon Mr Pope until after his sentence comes into effect on 13 December.

Under Russian law, the convicted man has a seven-day period from the passing of the sentence in which to appeal to the Supreme Court.

'Political case'

Mr Pope, a retired US naval intelligence officer, has not yet decided whether to appeal.

Pavel Astakhov
Pavel Astakhov: Thinks the case is now political
He denies the charge of illegally obtaining classified blueprints for a high-speed torpedo.

His lawyer, Pavel Astakhov, said: "Mr Pope believes his case is no longer a judicial matter but a political one."

Earlier in the year, President Putin refused to intervene in the case, saying that justice had to take its course.

US pressure

Correspondents say the severity of the sentence handed down to Mr Pope has sparked concern in Moscow of a possible political backlash in Washington.

We have consistently said that Edmond Pope should be released on humanitarian grounds. That remains our position

White House spokeswoman Nanda Chitre
US senators have urged the president to consider freezing economic aid to Russia.

The White House called on President Putin to act quickly.

"We have consistently said that Edmond Pope should be released on humanitarian grounds. That remains our position," said spokeswoman Nanda Chitre.

"We're hopeful that they'll release him. We're going to keep working on it", spokesman Jake Siewert added after Mr Clinton spoke to Mr Putin.

At his trial on Wednesday Mr Pope made a final emotional statement in his defence.

Public domain

"I am not a spy, even if I have spent eight months in a Russian prison... the only possible verdict is to let me go home to my family," he told the court.

cheri pope
Cheri Pope: "Shocked" by husband's condition
During the six-week trial, Mr Pope conceded that he had purchased on behalf of his hi-tech company documents relating to Russia's underwater Shkval torpedo, but argued that the information was already in the public domain.

Mr Pope, founder of a company specialising in studying foreign maritime equipment, is the first US citizen to stand trial for espionage in Moscow since 1960, when Gary Powers' U2 spy plane was shot down over the Soviet Union.

Powers was convicted but later exchanged for a Soviet agent working in the US.

US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, is expected to discuss Mr Pope's case with the Russian Foreign Minister, Igor Ivanov, when they meet later this month.

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See also:

06 Dec 00 | Europe
Russia jails US 'spy'
21 Oct 00 | Europe
Clinton asks Russia to free 'spy'
05 Apr 00 | Europe
US 'spy' held in Moscow
13 Sep 99 | Britain betrayed
Who's being spied on?
05 Apr 00 | Europe
Analysis: Spymasters change focus
01 Dec 00 | Media reports
Russian bombers back in the cold
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