Russia chemist who defied court is allowed to go home

February 23, 1994|By Moscow Bureau of The Sun

MOSCOW -- Vil Mirzayanov was back home last night after nearly a month in jail for refusing to cooperate in the closed-door court proceedings against him.

Charged with revealing state secrets about Russia's chemical weapon research program, Dr. Mirzayanov was jailed after his trial got under way Jan. 24 and remained in jail after the proceedings were suspended Feb. 14, apparently for insufficient evidence

The chief state prosecutor, Alexei Kazannik, signed an order yesterday giving Dr. Mirzayanov his freedom, said a prosecution spokesman, Alexander Zvyagintsev.

However, the chemist will not be allowed to leave Moscow, and the charges against him have not been dropped.

After his release, Dr. Mirzayanov vowed that he would appeal to the International Red Cross to investigate crowding, food and health conditions at Matrosskaya Tishina, the prison where he was held.

In a 1992 interview with The Sun and in an article he wrote for Moscow News, Dr. Mirzayanov described how research into more potent nerve gases had continued at the secret laboratory where he worked long after Moscow had renounced their use and production.

He was arrested a month later, held for 11 days at Lefortovo Prison, then released pending his trial, which began Jan. 24.

He was charged under a secret subsection of the law on state secrets -- a provision that he claims was made void by Russia's new constitution.

Dr. Mirzayanov won international support, particularly among scientific organizations.

After he was jailed a second time, President Boris N. Yeltsin was quoted as expressing his displeasure with the trial.

Nine days ago, the three judges hearing the case agreed to a prosecution request to send it back for further investigation -- a move that is not unusual here when prosecutors believe their evidence is weak.

It could result in the charges eventually being dropped, in a reopening of the trial or in a protracted state of limbo in which the case doesn't go forward but the defendant is not cleared.

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