Fri, 23 Aug 2019

A Russian court has convicted a Norwegian man of espionage and sentenced him to 14 years in a high-security prison.

Frode Berg, a retired former inspector on the Norwegian-Russian border, was found guilty and sentenced on April 16 after a trial held behind closed doors at the Moscow City Court.

Berg, 63, was detained in Moscow in December 2017 by the Federal Security Service (FSB), and accused of seeking classified information relating to Russian nuclear submarines.

He pleaded not guilty to charges of espionage on behalf of Norway.

At a hearing on April 9, prosecutor Milana Digayeva alleged that Berg was caught red-handed with documents he had received from an employee of a military facility -- Aleksei Zhitnyuk -- who was being shadowed by Russian intelligence.

Zhitnyuk was found guilty of high treason in December 2018 and sentenced to 13 years in prison.

Berg's lawyers have said that he admitted being a courier for Norway's military intelligence, but that he had little knowledge of the operation he took part in and thought he was only carrying money.

The 14-year prison sentence was in line with the punishment recommended by prosecutors. The maximum penalty for espionage is 20 years.

A lawyer for Berg, Ilya Novikov, said on April 16 that his client will not appeal the sentence but will submit a plea for pardon after it comes into force.

Asked about a possible pardon for Berg, President Vladimir Putin said last week that he would wait for the verdict before assessing a possible plea.

Novikov said ahead of the hearing that he was expecting a guilty verdict and a lengthy sentence, and that the defense was hoping diplomatic talks could lead to Berg's release.

'The question is how successful diplomatic efforts will be to secure his release,' Novikov said.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, Interfax, TASS, and Meduza

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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