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Vladimir Pozner, political journalist in Moscow
"I do not believe that President Putin had much of a choice"
 real 28k

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

Saturday, 9 December, 2000, 13:29 GMT
Putin set to pardon US 'spy'
Edmond Pope
Edmond Pope says the information he got was freely available
The Russian President, Vladimir Putin, has indicated that he will pardon the American businessman, Edmond Pope, who was sentenced to 20 years hard labour on Wednesday for spying.

Mr Putin said he wanted to maintain good relations with the United States, which denounced Mr Pope's conviction this week as unwarranted and called for his swift release.

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

White House spokeswoman Nanda Chitre
A Russian presidential commission on Friday recommended that Mr Pope be pardoned. He suffers from a rare form of bone cancer.

"You know about the commission's plea," the Interfax news agency quoted Mr Putin as saying. "It comprises respected people and I cannot but heed their opinion."

Mr Putin did not give a specific date for Mr Pope's release, but said it would be some time after 14 December.

Clinton plea

US President Bill Clinton urged Mr Putin on Friday to pardon Mr Pope.

cheri pope
Cheri Pope: "Shocked" by husband's condition

The US businessman denies the charge of illegally obtaining classified blueprints for a high-speed torpedo.

Presidential commission head Anatoly Pristavkin said the decision to recommend a pardon 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.

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.

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's 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 senators have urged the president to consider freezing economic aid to Russia.

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.

Pavel Astakhov
Pavel Astakhov: Thinks the case is now political
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.

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See also:

09 Dec 00 | Europe
Clinton urges Putin to free 'spy'
06 Dec 00 | Europe
Russia jails US 'spy'
21 Oct 00 | Europe
Clinton asks Russia to free 'spy'
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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