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Political Prisoner Professor Valentin Danilov To Be Released on Parole

13 November 2012 

Source: (info
On 13 November 2012, the Soviet district court in the city of Krasnoyarsk granted a petition for parole by Professor of Physics Valentin Danilov who had previously been sentenced to 13 years in prison for “treason and espionage” on charges brought by the regional branch of the Federal Security Service (FSB). News of the decision to grant Danilov parole was broken by the Interfax news agency.

The court's press office told Interfax that this does not mean that. Danilov will be released immediately. The court's ruling will only come into force in 10 days’ time if it has not been challenged in the meantime. That is the earliest date the scientist will be freed.

ITAR-TASS news agency reported that the physicist has 3 years two months and 11 days left to serve on his sentence.

According to an unnamed source in the law enforcement agencies, it is unlikely that the ruling will be challenged, given that Danilov's appeal was supported by the local Public Prosecutions Office.

During the hearing, it was revealed that Danilov had requested that he serve the rest of his sentence on parole in the city of Novosibirsk.

Charges of “divulging a state secret” were first brought against Danilov by the FSB in Krasnoyarsk in May 2000.

Danilov, who was then head of the Centre for Thermo-Physics in Krasnoyarsk, was engaged in building a unit for modelling the effect of cosmic space on artificial satellites orbiting the Earth, which had been commissioned by China.

In 1999 Danilov had signed a contract on behalf of the Krasnoyarsk State Technical University with the China Precision Machinery Import-Export Corporation (CPMIEC) to manufacture the test unit and develop software for it.

The regional branch of the FSB accused the physicist of spying for China despite the fact that the inventions used in the project had already been declassified 8 years before the court case was launched.

Valentin Danilov is considered to be a political prisoner by human rights defenders.

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Valentin Vladimirovich Danilov was previously director of the Thermo-Physics Centre (KGTU) and is a respected authority on space plasma in Russia and a Doctor of Physical and Mathematical Sciences. He was convicted of espionage on behalf of China in November 2004 and sentenced to 14 years in a high-security prison colony.

The events leading up to the Danilov’s conviction began in 1999. As head of the Centre for Thermo-Physics at the Krasnoyarsk State Technical University, Valentin Danilov was engaged by the Chinese to develop a test unit and software for modelling the effects of cosmic space on artificial satellites orbiting the Earth under a contract with the China Precision Machinery Import-Export Corporation.

He was later accused by the FSB's Krasnoyarsk branch of carrying out espionage for China. The FSB claimed that in working on this project Danilov had used classified materials from previous experiments.

Expert witnesses from the Academy of Science and the Central Scientific Research Institute of Machine-Building gave evidence that the data handed over by Danilov in the project was not secret.

It was also confirmed by the Russian Space Research Institute that data released by Danilov had been declassified 10 years earlier. Academic Eduard Kruglyakov, who is Deputy Director of the G.I. Budker Institute for Atomic Physics and heads the Plasma Physics Faculty at the Novosibirsk State University, also stated that he had found no secret data in the project.

On 27 December 2003, a jury of the Krasnoyarsk Regional Court fully acquitted Valentin Danilov of committing treason in the form of espionage (Article 275 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation) and fraud (Article 159 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation). He was acquitted by the jury of all charges by a majority of 8 out of the 12 jurors.

Following Danilov's acquittal, the Supreme Court acted on a request from the Public Prosecutor’s Office to overturn his acquittal and to declare the decision of the jury in the first trial unsound.

Danilov was then brought to a retrial, during the course of which the original jury was dismissed and a new one appointed in its place. The list of jurors on the second panel has never been released. 

Ernst Isaakovich Cherny, executive secretary of the Public Committee for the Protection of Scientists, has claimed that many of the jurors on the second panel were connected in some way to government agencies.

The question put to the jury was: did Danilov give any kind of information (they were not asked to decide whether it was classified or unclassified) to the Chinese? The jury was not asked to examine whether the accused was innocent or guilty, which is another breach of the procedural code.

At that time, leading Russian human rights activists and academics, including the 2003 Nobel prize-winner for Physics Vitaly Ginzberg, called for Valentin Danilov to be acquitted.

Human rights defenders also called for an end to the persecution of scientists in Russia and to the labelling of law-abiding citizens as spies. Numerous scientists and academics offered to appear as expert witnesses in the case, but they were refused.

On 20 June 2005, lawyers acting on behalf of the physicist launched an appeal at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.