Amnesty slams 'forcible exile' of Russian scientist
Amnesty International hit out at Russia Friday saying it forced convicted nuclear scientist Igor Sutyagin to leave the country as part of a spy-swap deal with the United States.
"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," the human rights watchdog said in a statement.
Sutyagin, who was jailed in 2004 on charges of spying for the United States, is believed to be one of a total 14 men and women exchanged by Washington and Moscow Friday in the biggest spy swap since the Cold War.
The exchange -- involving 10 agents deported by US authorities and four imprisoned in Russia -- is thought to have taken place at Vienna airport, where a Russian and a US jet parked alongside each other for about an hour.
Neither country immediately confirmed the swap has been completed, but the two aircraft have since departed from Vienna to return to the US and Russia respectively.
Both Sutyagin's father and lawyer said they were unaware of his current whereabouts.
In its statement, Amnesty said the nuclear expert was opposed to the spy-swap deal "and had to accept it under pressure."
It "may amount to forcible exile," the statement said. "It will 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."
Sutyagin compiled information on military and defence issues in Russia, while working as a private consultant for British-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, Amnesty said.
© 2010 AFP