Strasbourg finds that Russia violated Igor Sutyagin’s right to liberty and to a fair trial




The European Court of Human Rights has concluded that the prison sentence for espionage imposed on Russian scientist Igor Sutyagin followed a court trial which was not independent and impartial

In Tuesday’s Chamber judgment in the case Sutyagin v. Russia (application no. 30024/02), which is not final1, the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been a violation of Article 5 § 3 (right to liberty and security), and two violations of Article 6 § 1 (right to a fair trial)of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The case concerned the complaint by Russian scientist Igor Sutyagin that he had been sentenced in an unfair trial and had been held in detention during proceedings that had lasted for too long.

Principal facts

The applicant, Igor Sutyagin, is a Russian national who was born in 1965. He currently lives in London, the United Kingdom, following his early release from prison in July 2010 in the context of an exchange of prisoners between Russia and the United States.

On 27 October 1999, in the context of criminal proceedings related to a publication which allegedly contained State secrets, Mr Sutyagin’s flat was searched and material was seized from it. He was questioned as a witness and became a suspect two days later in separate criminal proceedings brought against him for espionage. He was detained on remand the same day as the prosecutor considered that Mr Sutyagin had gathered, systematised and summarised information of a military and technical nature and then passed it on, for payment, to representatives of a foreign organisation, Alternative

Futures, during meetings held outside Russia.

Mr Sutyagin remained in pre-trial detention, which was continuously extended on many occasions, mainly with reference to the gravity of the offence with which he was charged, despite his appeals against it. In September 2003, the case was assigned to a judge Sh. from the Moscow City Court who held a preliminary hearing during the same month and scheduled a hearing on the merits by a jury, as requested by Mr Sutyagin, for 3 November 2003. On 26 November 2003, however, the case was assigned to a different judge – judge K. – who scheduled a hearing in the case for mid-March 2004.

Mr Sutyagin tried repeatedly, but unsuccessfully, to find out why the judge was replaced.

On 7 April 2004, the first instance court – the Moscow City Court - adopted a judgment sentencing Mr  Sutyagin to 15 years in prison

1 Under Articles 43 and 44 of the Convention, this Chamber judgment is not final. During the three-month period following its delivery, any party may request that the case be referred to the Grand Chamber of the Court. If such a request is made, a panel of five judges considers whether the case deserves further examination. In that event, the Grand Chamber will hear the case and deliver a final judgment. If the referral request is refused, the Chamber judgment will become final on that day.

Once a judgment becomes final, it is transmitted to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe for supervision of its execution. Further information about the execution process can be found here:

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