Norwegian man sentenced to 14 years in Russia prison over spying charges

Source: Xinhua| 2019-04-17 01:04:33|Editor: Mu Xuequan
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OSLO, April 16 (Xinhua) -- A Norwegian man was sentenced to 14 years in Russian prison over spying charges, newspaper VG reported Tuesday.

Norwegian citizen and former border guard Frode Berg, 63, was accused for espionage and was given a 14-year-long "prison colony with a strict regime" by Moscow city court.

Brynjulf Risnes, Berg's lawyer, told VG that the verdict is as expected and strict, but that this "does not necessarily mean so much to the case further".

The verdict, on the other hand, can lead to a start of a diplomatic process where the goal is for Berg to return to Norway as soon as possible, the newspaper reported.

Risnes said that he and his Russian colleague Ilja Novikov both expect something to happen on a diplomatic level.

"Now that the verdict has come, we can begin to create a strategy," he told VG.

"The question is not how many years he gets, but how the diplomatic talks will go. We know nothing about how far they have come," Novikov said, adding that it was better to defend a foreigner than a Russian, because then "one knows that there can be a political solution".

Risnes mentioned that they can work after the judgment on either transfer of a sentenced man or a pardon, which can be relevant due to both age and health.

There is, however, a third option as well: agent exchange between Russia and the West, VG wrote.

Berg is ready to ask for pardon, said Novikov, who believes that pardon can happen relatively quickly, but at the earliest in May.

If a pardon application is rejected, Berg risks being transferred to a prison colony in a remote area, such as Siberia or the Republic of Mordovia.

Berg will not appeal the verdict, which will become enforceable in 10 days.

He did not admit the charges, but confirmed that he had contact with Norwegian intelligence.

"We take note of the verdict and continue to work to safeguard Frode Berg's interests in the best possible way. The Norwegian authorities are now working to get him back to Norway," said acting Communications Manager at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ane Haavardsdatter Lunde.