US lawyer tried for spying in Belarus

Source ::: AFP

minsk  The trial of a US lawyer charged with industrial espionage and drug smuggling began yesterday in Minsk, four months after his arrest and despite appeals for his release from Washington.

Emanuel Zeltser, who was arrested on landing at Minsk airport on March 12, is innocent, his lawyer Dmitry Goryachka said before the start of the trial, which is closed to the public.

"I have prepared a whole file of documents which confirms the innocence of Zeltser and Funk," Goryachka told reporters at the courthouse, referring to the US lawyer and his Russian assistant Vladlena Funk, who were detained together.

Zeltser, an expert on money laundering who once testified before Congress on Russian organised crime, faces up to seven years in prison. He is charged with the possession of false papers, drug smuggling and industrial espionage.

Funk is accused of carrying false papers and industrial espionage.

The United States has raised concerns about Zeltser's health and asked for his release on humanitarian grounds, an appeal that Belarus rejected.