European court condemns Russia over travel ban

10th February 2011, Comments 0 comments

The European Court of Human Rights condemned Moscow on Thursday for denying a passport to a Russian military retiree for fear he may pass on state secrets overseas.

The court ordered Russia to pay 3,000 euros ($4,087) in damages to 52-year-old Sergey Soltysyak, who left the Russian army in 2004 after spending 10 years working at the Baikonur space launch site in Kazakhstan.

During that period, Soltysyak "was granted access to information -- on rocket test launches, launch parameters and test results -- classified as top secret," the court noted in a statement.

On his retirement, Soltysyak only possessed an identity card. He subsequently tried without success to obtain a passport, including via Russian courts, on grounds he wanted to visit family in Ukraine and Estonia, the court said.

The court's seven judges deemed the travel ban imposed by Russia between 2004 and 2008 "had not been proportionate to the aim of protecting national security", and restrictions after 2008 "had no basis in law or in contract."

In adhering to the 47-member Council of Europe, Russia accepted to abolish overseas travel restrictions against its agents who had access to state secrets.

Today, the court -- which was set up by the council -- noted, "Russia was the only member State to retain such a restriction."

© 2011 AFP

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