Political Prisoners in Today’s Russia: Igor Sutyagin By Grigory Pasko, journalist
On 27 October 1999, in the city of Obninsk, the FSB Administration for Kaluga Oblast detained Igor Vyacheslavovich SUTYAGIN, a staff member of the Russian Academy of Sciences Institute for the U.S. and Canadian Studies. Several days later, he was formally charged under Article 275 of the Criminal Code of the RF (State treason), while he himself was transferred first to the Kaluga investigative isolator, and on 27 June 2002 to the Lefortovo SIZO (city of Moscow).
Only on 7 April 2004 did the Moscow City Court (judge Marina Komarova) adopt a decision about Igor Sutyagin’s guilt: he was sentenced to deprivation of liberty for a term of 15 years with the sentence to be served in a strict regime colony. The legal groundlessness of the Sutyagin case can be seen from the ruling of the Kaluga Oblast Court (chair – A. Gusev) of 27 December 2001. The ruling states, in part: “Having studied the case materials, the court comes to the conviction that the case charging I.V. Sutyagin is subject to being sent for the carrying out of supplementary investigation in connection with substantial violation of criminal procedural law permitted by the organ of preliminary investigation, which has led to a constricting of the right of the accused to a defence guaranteed by the law”. In a country with the rule of law, the case would have been dismissed. In the Russia of the times of putin the “independent” court decided only to send the case for supplementary investigation, although it had all grounds to acquit Sutyagin in connection with a lack of evidence. Sutyagin was charged with various counts: of gathering and storing “analytical information to the detriment of Russia” on the assignment of an unestablished intelligence service; of gathering information on digital government communications media; of a whole slew of topics associated with space, the deployment of military units, the structure of the military budget, the T-95 tank, the C-400 anti-aircraft missile complex, KA-50 helicopters, Su-27 airplanes, a new rocket-launched torpedo, etc., etc., etc. … The raving lunacy of these charges became clear even in to the first court – the Kaluga Oblast Court. This is why the FSB, which was conducting the case, transferred it to the Moscow City Court, closer to the central apparat of the FSB and in the tender care of “its” court and “its” judges. In the opinion of independent jurists, the Sutyagin case has a multitude of features that allow it to be asserted that the criminal prosecution of the scientist was fabricated, while Sutyagin himself has been unlawfully convicted. First, the scientist did not have access to work with secret documents. Second, the jury was formed twice. Third, one of the members of the jury was a KGB officer. Fourth, many of the counts in the charges literally fell apart in court. (On 31 August 2000, the criminal case was dismissed in the part charging Igor Sutyagin with transferring secret information to an American colleague; the criminal case was also dismissed in the part charging him with gathering and transferring information to foreign intelligence on individual topics, and so forth) A unique feature of the case is that the FSB has imputed to a citizen that in his analytical works, he had come to certain conclusions on the basis of openly published materials. The experts of the FSB declared these conclusions to comprise a state secret. In such a manner, an attempt was undertaken by the FSB for the first time to declare informational-analytical work based on open sources to be criminal. In the opinion of human rights advocate Ernst Cherny, the right of a scholar to engage in the analysis of information freely accessible to the public has effectively been put in doubt. At the beginning of September 2004, after the verdict entered into force, Igor Sutyagin was transferred to strict-regime penal colony YaCh 91/5 in the city of Sarapul in Udmurtia, and thence to a penal colony in Arkhangelsk. Sutyagin’s application to the Strasbourg court has yet – like all the other applications of the so-called “spies” from Russia – has yet to be considered.