MOSCOW – Researcher Igor Sutyagin (search) was found guilty of espionage on Monday, Russian news agencies reported, in a case that raised fears of a resurgence of Soviet-style tactics and alarmed the scientific community.
Sutyagin, a scholar at Moscow's respected USA and Canada Institute (search), was jailed in October 1999 on charges he sold information on nuclear submarines and missile warning systems to a British company that Russian investigators claim was a Central Intelligence Agency cover.
Sutyagin maintained the analyses he wrote were based on open sources and that he had no reason to believe the British company was an intelligence cover.
He faces up to 20 years on the conviction, but a sentence was not immediately announced and officials at the Moscow City Court could not be reached for comment
The Interfax news agency quoted Sutyagin's lawyer, Boris Kuznetsov, as saying only four of the 12 jury members recommended mercy when the judge determines the sentence.
Human rights advocates say the Federal Security Service (search), or FSB, the KGB's main successor, is deeply suspicious of Russian scientists' contacts with foreigners. They say that its agents have been emboldened by the rise of ex-KGB agent and FSB director Vladimir Putin's (search) ascension to the presidency.
In only a few cases have courts challenged such cases. In December, a jury acquitted Valentin Danilov, a professor at Krasnoyarsk Technical University in Siberia, who had been charged with selling classified information on space technology to China and misappropriating university funds.
Russia's constitution provides for jury trials, but until recently they existed only on an experimental basis.
A court had been expected to deliver a verdict in the case in 2001, but instead instructed prosecutors to continue investigating and left Sutyagin in jail. Russian courts, including the Supreme Court, have repeatedly denied his request to await trial out of jail.