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By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
MOSCOW/BUDAPEST (BosNewsLife)– A Russian scientist who was sentenced on charges of spying for China has been released on parole after nearly a decade behind bars in Siberia. Valentin Danilov and his supporters view the case as another crackdown by the Kremlin on perceived opponents.
Those who know him well say Valentin Danilov, now looking grey, pale and thin, changed more than the country that jailed him in 2004 on charges of “spying” and selling state secrets to China.
On Saturday the 66-year-old scientist was suddenly released from a penal colony in a grim industrial area outside the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, because of what authorities called “good behavior” and “concerns about his health”.
Though he served eight of a 14-year prison term in tough conditions with murders and other criminals, Danilov made clear he is not a broken man.
The stylish scientist, dressed in a suit, told reporters he never spied and that he considers himself a political prisoner.
“Everything that has to do with space is a secret from the point of view of our secret services, even the fact that the earth is like a ball,” he complained.
Danilov has admitted selling information about satellite technology to a Chinese company but he, other scientists and human rights activists said the information was already available from public sources.
Critics claim he scientist’s case is an example of the Kremlin’s use of the courts against opponents after two pop singers and other dissidents were detained under Russia’s leader Vladimir Putin.
Danilov says he aims to rebuild his strength and family ties with his daughter, granddaughter and wife of 41 years who lives in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk.
He also plans to keep in touch with people he met behind bars, including a man sentenced for murder,whom he helped to obtain higher education.
Danilov said in an interview that he learned much about his time in prison. “They say that to get to know a country well, one must visit its cemeteries and prison…”
(BosNewsLife’s NEWS WATCH is a regular look at key news developments from especially, but not limited to, (former) Communist nations and other autcratic states impacting the Church and/or compassionate professionals).