Russia: Igor Sutyagin must not be forced into exile

Amnesty International has said any deal over the release of a nuclear scientist, Igor Sutyagin, which requires him to leave Russia against his wishes will amount to forcible exile, which is prohibited under international law.

Igor Sutyagin is reportedly being taken to Britain as one of a number of people convicted of spying in Russia who are being exchanged for 10 or 11 individuals alleged by the US to be Russian spies.

Igor Sutyagin’s mother told Amnesty that he has opposed this deal but was coerced to accept it.

“He understands that by signing a confession of his guilt, he is losing all chances for a fair trial of his case, including a hearing of his case pending at the European Court of Human Rights. That’s why he asked me to pass on to everyone that he is not guilty. He had to sign this confession as he had no other options. He looks at his swap as an expulsion from the country,” said Svetlana Sutiagina.

Amnesty International Europe and Central Asia Director Nicola Duckworth said:

“If Igor Sutyagin is opposed to this ‘deal’ and had to accept it under pressure, it may amount to forcible exile.

“It will also deprive him of the chance to clear his name of the charges he has been convicted of in a retrial that is in compliance with international standards for fairness. It will also deprive him of his contacts with family and friends.”

Igor Sutyagin’s case was highlighted by Amnesty in 2004 in connection with concerns over freedom of expression and fair trial. Sutyagin compiled information on military and defence issues in Russia, while working as a private consultant for UK-based Alternative Futures consultancy. He was found guilty in 2004 of "high treason by means of espionage" and was sentenced to 15 years in a strict-regime penal colony.  He has always claimed that he had used open public sources only, and always denied guilt in the charges espionage and devolving state secrets. The case against him was initiated by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB).

Amnesty believes the case against him was politically-motivated and part of a clampdown on the freedom of expression in Russia that has included academic and cultural figures as well as religious groups. The proceedings against Sutyagin were marred by violations of international fair trial standards and Amnesty has called for his prompt retrial.

For a number of years Amnesty has voiced concerns about the shrinking space for expressing dissenting views, and for independent media and independent non-governmental organisations to operate throughout in Russia.

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