Moscow court overturns award to whistle-blower


MOSCOW -- The Moscow City Court has ruled against Vil Mirzayanov, the chemist who first blew the whistle on Russia's secret chemical weapons program, in his attempts to collect damages from the Russian prosecutor's office and from the top-secret lab where he once worked.

The court's ruling on Friday overturned a lower court decision that had awarded Dr. Mirzayanov a 30 million-ruble compensation (worth $15,000) for wrongful prosecution.

The case was sent back to the lower court for reconsideration -- on the condition that a different judge hear the testimony.

Dr. Mirzayanov was put on trial behind closed doors earlier this year on charges of divulging state secrets after he made his accusations about the chemical weapons program in an interview with The Sun and in an article in Moscow News.

The case against him was thrown out, though, and shortly afterward he filed a civil suit against the prosecutor's office, the lab and the Federal Counter-Intelligence Service, which conducted the investigation of his case.

On June 8 the Perovo District Court awarded him 20 million rubles from the prosecutor's office and 10 million from the lab, although it absolved the Counter-Intelligence Service, successor to the KGB, of wrongdoing.

It was, reportedly, the first time a Russian court had awarded damagesfor unlawful prosecution.

But yesterday the higher court suggested that, under a rather vague section of Russian law, the prosecutor's office may not be liable for damages.

The court "must have been frightened about setting a precedent on the basis of which thousands of other people could lay legal claims against the state," Dr. Mirzayanov's lawyer, Alexander Asnis, told the Interfax news agency.

"This just proves that the court is still totalitarian and Communist," Dr. Mirzayanov said.

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