Photo Credit: ReutersIgor Sutyagin listens to the Moscow City Court read his 15-year sentence to hard labor from the barred cage in which defendants sit during trial in Russia.
After being convicted on charges of treason and espionage, Sutyagin was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor by the Moscow City Court on April 7, 2004, following almost 5 years of FSB (Russian Security Service) investigation during which he was jailed.
The exceptionally harsh sentence has shocked Russian academic communities as well as international human rights groups. According to his lawyers and those groups, the trial process failed to meet international standards of fairness and due process, and seriously violated several Russian laws.
A panel of jurors sworn to hear the case in November 2003 was dismissed without explanation and replaced by a new one. The prosecutor did not even attempt to show that the information provided by Sutyagin to his foreign colleagues originated from classified sources.
Sutyagin has insisted that all information he ever had access to was obtained from open sources. The judge in effect instructed the jury to disregard this defense, creating a precedent wherein reporting unclassified scientific research is considered a crime.
On several occasions during the past 5 years, CIFS, along with AAAS, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, unsuccessfully appealed to President Putin to release Sutyagin from pretrial detention. Since his conviction, Sutyagin's situation has worsened dramatically. He is facing a very real possibility of spending a significant part of his life in a hard labor prison. Sutyagin's attorneys have filed an appeal for retrial with the Russian Supreme Court, quoting numerous procedural violations, but in the absence of international attention the Supreme Court is expected to rubberstamp the conviction.
In June 2004, Amnesty International declared Sutyagin a political prisoner. A number of other human rights groups have launched an effort in his support and against what is widely seen as a deliberate FSB campaign to prosecute scientists. CIFS is joining six other organizations in endorsing a letter of support for Dr. Sutyagin addressed to President Putin.
Letter from the APS President to Sutyagin, February 2006
Letter to Moscow City Court, October 2003
Letter to Russian Supreme Court, December 2002
Letter to the Chairman of the Russian Supreme Court, February 2002
Letter from the Committee of Concerned Scientists, the New York Academy of Sciences' Committee on Human Rights, the Committee on Scientific Freedom and Responsibility of the AAAS, and CIFS, August 2001
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Associate Editor: Jennifer Ouellette