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The Case of Igor Sutyagin

Location: Washington, DC

THE CASE OF IGOR SUTYAGIN -- (Extensions of Remarks - April 22, 2004)


Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, I draw to the attention of my colleagues the plight of Russian scientist Dr. Igor Sutyagin. On April 5th of this year, he was convicted of espionage by a closed court and sentenced to 15 years of labor camp. Sutyagin's attorneys have filed an appeal with the Russian Supreme Court.

As part of project initiated in 1997, Dr. Sutyagin was commissioned by the Institute of USA and Canada Studies, a prominent think tank in Moscow, to conduct research on civilian-military relations in Russia and eleven other Eastern European countries. As described by its initiators, this project was designed to provide the new post-Soviet democracies with Western expertise in military reform and to help civilian governments gain oversight over their militaries. The research was conducted through interviews with military and civilian government officials and was supplemented by open sources such as newspaper articles. At no time were researchers privy to, or expected to use classified materials. Military officials of the countries participating in this project were informed prior to the beginning of the research.

Despite the transparency of the research conducted, Dr. Sutyagin was arrested in October 1999 by the Russian Federal Security Office and charged with espionage, specifically passing information to a British organization allegedly associated with British intelligence. A thorough search conducted by the FSB in the home and office of Dr. Sutyagin produced no evidence of any classified documents. At the end of the day, the FSB concluded that the research conducted by Dr. Sutyagin did not use classified material, but that his conclusions were so accurate he must have used classified documents to reach them ..... a rather unique approach to scientific inquiry and national security.

As Ludmilla Alexeyev, chairperson of the Moscow Helsinki Group, put it so succinctly, "The FSB tends to make up spies."

Dr. Sutyagin spent the last four and a half years in jail under investigation. In March 2001, the case went to court, but the judge found insufficient grounds for conviction. However, as occurs frequently in these "spy" cases, the prosecution got another bite of the apple. The FSB was allowed to begin the investigation anew, and, with a reputedly more compliant judge presiding, the second trial opened on March 15 of this year.

The Washington Post of November 12, 2001 compared this case to a bad parody of Kafka: "The FSB wants Russians to know that it has the ability to jail anyone who somehow displeases the authorities, regardless of evidence or the law."

Mr. Speaker, it would be presumptuous of me, from the halls of Congress, to make a blanket judgment as to Dr. Sutyagin's innocence or guilt. However, I would point out that even the director of his institute, who was not sympathetic to Sutyagin's work with foreigners, confirmed that he did not have access to classified information. Sutyagin was paid for newspaper clippings, he told the press. Moreover, it is instructive that even Sutyagin's detractors in the security services, as quoted in the media after the trial, did not claim that he possessed or passed to foreign sources classified material. His only crime, in the words of the former U.S. Defense Attache in Russia, was that "he had a passion for navies and he liked to talk to foreigners."

Mr. Speaker, as Chairman of the Helsinki Commission, I have watched Russia move from an authoritarian police state under communist rule to a sovereign nation with democratically elected leadership and many of the civil liberties that we in our country take for granted. I have encouraged these positive trends and have been encouraged by them. But the Sutyagin case is a sobering reminder that the free flow of information, a principle encoded in many international agreements, remains vulnerable to the whims of the security apparatus in today's Russia.

I hope the Russian Supreme Court will review this case with the utmost care.


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