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Swiss to Extradite Adamov to U.S.

A Swiss court decided Monday to extradite former Nuclear Power Minister Yevgeny Adamov to the United States, shunning a rival extradition request by the Russian government and drawing an outcry from State Duma deputies -- one of whom called for the retaliatory detention of U.S. citizens.

The Swiss Federal Office of Justice said in a statement that the U.S. extradition request took precedence because of "Adamov's citizenship and the chances of his onward extradition."

"Had priority been given to Russia, Adamov's Russian citizenship would have meant that he could not subsequently have been extradited onward to the United States," said the statement, posted on the agency's web site. "This would result in an unacceptable failing of the prosecution process."

The U.S. Justice Department has accused Adamov of embezzling $9 million in U.S. aid meant to improve safety at Russian nuclear facilities while he served as nuclear power minister from 1998 to 2001. If convicted, Adamov faces up to 60 years in prison and $1.75 million in fines.

Swiss law gives 30 days to appeal the decision.

"Of course I am troubled by the decision, though we still have the possibility of appealing it in the Swiss Supreme Court and achieving success there," said Timofei Gridnev, Adamov's lawyer, Interfax reported.

Gridnev could not be reached Monday to confirm whether his client would appeal.

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said that if Adamov were extradited to the United States, "Russia should strive to have all of Adamov's rights as a citizen strictly observed, and all the authorities of the Russian Federation should strictly oversee that," Interfax reported.

Ivanov said Adamov was "a bearer of state secrets up until 2000."

Adamov's May 2 arrest in Bern set off a political storm, with lawmakers clamoring about the possible loss of nuclear secrets to the United States and demanding Adamov's return to Russia. The Prosecutor General's Office filed an extradition request on May 14, saying Adamov was wanted at home on charges of fraud and abuse of power.

Adamov has repeatedly stated his desire to return to Russia. In a Sept. 6 interview with Ekho Moskvy radio, Adamov said the United States had fabricated charges against him to interfere with Russia's sovereignty.

"Creating an image of a corrupt Russia with a thieving, corrupt leadership is a step toward occupying our country," Adamov said.

On Monday, Duma deputies reacted harshly to the Swiss decision.

Viktor Ilyukhin, a Communist and deputy chairman of the Duma's Security Committee, called the decision "a serious blow to our nation's prestige."

"This is all very serious because above all, it must be understood that America needs Adamov as a source of information," he said, Interfax reported.

United Russia Deputy Mikhail Grishankov said, "A threat has arisen of a possible leak of information Adamov possesses about ... the development and future evolution of nuclear weapons," Interfax reported.

Grishakov added that "Adamov is a very strong person. I don't want to imply anything untoward, but on alien territory, anything can happen."

Alexei Mitrofanov, a deputy from the ultranationalist Liberal Democratic Party, or LDPR, accused the United States of pressuring Swiss authorities and "violating the principle of the sovereign state."

Asked about an earlier suggestion by an LDPR deputy that Adamov be assassinated to protect state secrets, Mitrofanov said: "There are simpler methods -- for instance, detaining an American on our territory, or better yet two. They might include Hollywood stars. They frequently come to our country, and everyone knows they fool around with drugs."

The current head of the Federal Atomic Energy Agency, Alexander Rumyantsev, responded more moderately.

"This decision falls within the framework of international law. It is my opinion that a citizen of the Russian Federation ought to be turned over to the Russian Federation," Rumyantsev said in a statement on the agency's web site.

Adamov's extradition to the United States is regarded as particularly sensitive because of his involvement in planning the controversial Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran.

The plant, which is being built by state-owned Atomstroiexport for $800 million, has been a diplomatic sore point between Russia and the United States. Iran says Bushehr is the cornerstone of a peaceful nuclear energy program, while the United States suspects the plant will be used as a cover for a nuclear weapons program.

Adamov founded Atomstroiexport in 1998 and vocally defied U.S. objections to the construction of Bushehr during his tenure as nuclear power minister.

The Federal Atomic Energy Agency agreed earlier this year to provide Iran with nuclear fuel and to dispose of spent fuel, which the United States fears could be used to make weapons.

The Bushehr plant is expected to be operational by the end of 2006.

On Monday, flamboyant LDPR head Vladimir Zhirinovsky charged that if the United States wanted to question Adamov "in order to clarify how prepared Iran is to build nuclear weapons on its own -- then they should make a decision about beginning a military operation against the country," Interfax reported.

A State Department spokesman declined to comment on the matter, saying that a formal statement was being prepared.

Adamov was appointed to the post of nuclear power minister in March 1998 by then-President Boris Yeltsin. Putin fired Adamov in 2001 amid allegations that Adamov had appointed business associates to key ministry positions and received kickbacks through several U.S. companies he controls.

Prosecutors found no evidence of wrongdoing at the time.

The U.S. Justice Department investigated the embezzlement case for at least three years before charging Adamov in May.

"Today, it's hardly possible to dispute the decision to extradite Adamov to the United States -- it's too late for that," Zhirinovsky said. "Adamov is going to sit in an American jail for many years."

Adamov went on a short-lived hunger strike early Monday in an apparent attempt to win extradition to Russia, The Associated Press reported. Another of his lawyers, Stefan Wehrenberg, said, "I saw him eating lunch."

(The Moscow Times 04.x.05)

 
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