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20 Feb, 2008 20:07

Ex-nuclear minister jailed for over five years

Russia’s Former Nuclear Energy Minister Evgeny Adamov has been sentenced to five and a half years behind bars after being found guilty of fraud and abuse of power. The defendant however has pledged to appeal against the verdict of Moscow's district court

The prosecutor had asked for nine years for Adamov, but his sentence was significantly shorter. It was also backdated to start from May, 2005. So, in fact, he will be serving around two years and nine months. It could also be further reduced  for good behaviour.

Judges have said that they took into account Evgeny Adamov’s age – he's 69 years old – his work in order to fight theconsequences of theChernobyl disaster, awards received from the Orthodox Church and his charity work.

Adamov didn’t say much as he came out of the court room, which was absolutely packed.

The greatest reaction came from his lawyer Henry Reznik, who was a prominent figure in this trial. He said that this was a travesty of justice and that his client was a pawn in a political game between Russia and the U.S.

“The prosecution never presented any proof that a single cent or ruble was pocketed by Yevgeny Adamov,” Reznik said.

He also intimated that Adamov had been a pawn in a political game played between Russia and the United States.

Evgeny Adamov had always loudly protested his innocence but he left court quietly on Wednesday evening, handcuffed between two policemen, to begin his prison sentence.

But Adamov’s lawyers say it’s not over. They say they’ll continue to fight for their client’s freedom - if necessary all the way to the European court of human rights.

A long trial

Adamov’s sentence brought to an end a trial that's been years in the making and involved three different countries.

He was first detained in 2005 in Switzerland at the request of the U.S.

According to U.S. prosecutors, Adamov defrauded up to $US 9 million of funds aimed at helping Russia improve security at its nuclear facilities. This money was sent to Russia's Scientific Research and Construction Institute of Energy Technologies in the 1990s, when Adamov was the head of the Institute.

But before the US could get their hands on him Russia stepped in, filing it’s own extradition request and charging Adamov with creating an organised crime group and embezzling $US 30 million during his time in office from 1998 to 2001.

Adamov denied the accusations. He said the controversy is due to the mess in payment schemes which were practiced in Russia in the middle of the 1990s and all the money he received went to developers of various projects and wages for employees.

Adamov also demanded to be sent to Russia. According to him, if he was tried in the U.S. he would have to share secret information of national importance to Russia.

“I would stand trial in the U.S. in order to restore justice. But I will do so only with guarantees that the U.S. assures Russia that my taking part in a trial will not be a channel for leaking information that is sensitive to our country,” said Adamov.

Switzerland chose Russia as the country to host the trial.

Adamov was released from jail in 2006 with no right to leave the country. In total in Switzerland and Russia he spent 15 months behind bars.