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29 Nov, 2011 10:06

Russian ‘honeytrap spy’ wins deportation battle in UK

Russia’s Katia Zatuliveter will not be deported from the UK. A special commission has ruled that the 26-year-old, accused of obtaining classified information while working for a British MP with whom she had an affair, was not a Russian agent.

After the court ruled that Zatuliveter may stay due to a lack of evidence of her being a spy, her lawyer stated that the whole situation showed incompetence on behalf of the security services.“That case was built entirely on speculation, prejudice, and conjecture,” said Zatuliveter’s lawyer, Tessa Gregory. “We hope that the government will reflect very carefully on today’s judgment, which must raise serious concerns as to the standards of professionalism and competency within the security service.”The Special Immigration Appeals Commission panel included former MI5 boss Sir Stephen Lander.British security service MI5 had previously said that Zatuliveter, who was arrested in December 2010, was used as a ‘honey trap’ by Russian intelligence services to get access to top-secret documents. Since then, the Russian had been fighting the move to deport her.She denies spying allegations but admits having an affair with her boss Mike Hancock, the Liberal Democrat MP for Portsmouth South, for whom she was working as a researcher.British intelligence services say that Hancock was picked because of his position as chairman of the parliamentary all-party Russia group, and due to his work on the House of Commons Defence Committee. The Russian embassy in London has said it was disappointed by the non-transparency of the process.“The Russian embassy in Great Britain is satisfied by the SIAC ruling,” an official embassy statement said. “The hearings were absolutely non-transparent, which hindered the embassy and media from getting their hands on objective information.”The Zatuliveter case forced Hancock to resign in October. But in a letter to the Liberal Democrat party's chief whip, he expressed hope of rejoining the House of Commons Defence Committee, once the case against Zatuliveter is concluded. Last month, Zatuliveter was also suspected of having an affair with a 56-year old German diplomat – a NATO official specializing in Russian security issues.Media reports claimed she may have transferred information obtained from the German to Russian security services.Zatuliveter’s lawyer Tim Owen insists the accusations against his client were baseless, with the only “evidence” “stemming from a joke Zatuliveter made.” According to Owen, she wrote in an email that she had managed to “disable the work of half of NATO” by distracting a NATO official she was having an affair with.