US grants bail to one Russia spy suspect; nine ordered held

2nd July 2010, Comments 0 comments

A US judge granted bail with house arrest to one of the Russia spy suspects Thursday but ordered the other nine in custody here, in Boston and Virginia to remain behind bars for the time being.

In New York, Judge Ronald Ellis said Vicky Pelaez, a journalist born in Peru but who has US citizenship, could be released on house arrest with a monitoring device if someone paid the 250,000 dollars bond, with 10,000 dollars needed in cash.

Pelaez "does not appear to be a trained agent," Ellis said, noting that she "has a real identity and she is a US citizen and she has an incentive to stay in the country."

Two other suspects, Richard and Cynthia Murphy, were ordered detained here, with Ellis saying "the government evidence is strong" against the couple, who were among 10 suspects nabbed by US authorities in recent days under suspicion of operating as Russian agents in the United States.

A July 27 preliminary hearing date has been set for the Murphys, who were arrested Sunday in New Jersey.

The judge meanwhile postponed a decision on Pelaez's husband Juan Lazaro, who US prosecutors said Thursday confessed after his arrest to working for Russia's SVR foreign intelligence service, and that Lazaro was not his real name.

In Virginia, a bail hearing for three other suspects -- Michael Zottoli, Patricia Mills, and Mikhail Semenko -- was put off until Friday at the request of defense lawyers who said they had new information.

Meanwhile in Boston, US Magistrate Judge Jennifer Boal ordered suspects Donald Heathfield and Tracey Foley held in jail until a new hearing set for July 16, and held a closed-door hearing to make care arrangements for the couple's two sons, 16 and 20.

As the pair entered the courtroom, handcuffed and in prison uniforms, their two children waved to their mother, who responded with a wide smile. The couple's lawyers asked that the children's custody be discussed away from the court.

The suspected agents appeared in court to face charges of participating in a network of agents working for the Kremlin.

The case of the alleged "deep cover" agents -- accused of trying to infiltrate US policymaking circles -- harkens back to Cold War hostilities, with the use of false identities, tales of buried money and hidden video cameras.

All told, 10 people were arrested in the United States in connection with the suspected espionage ring, nine of whom made court appearances Thursday.

Russian businesswoman Anna Chapman, 28, appeared in federal court on Monday in New York and was remanded into custody without bail.

Also detained, in Cyprus, was an 11th suspect, Christopher Robert Metsos, 54 or 55 years old, but he disappeared after being released on bond.

© 2010 AFP

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