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Austria releases Russian space agency official - embassy

RIA Novosti

21/06/2007 15:15

VIENNA, June 21 (RIA Novosti) - Austrian authorities have released a Russian space agency official arrested on espionage charges last week and he will be soon handed over to Russian diplomats, Russia's Embassy in Vienna said Thursday.

A 51-year-old Russian Federal Space Agency official was arrested June 11 in northern Austria on suspicion of espionage, and an Austrian Air Force officer was arrested on suspicion of supplying the Russian with sensitive material from a German helicopter construction company.

The Russian Foreign Ministry protested the Austrian authorities' actions saying they were out of line with the 1946 Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations, which states officials that are part of delegations at UN events enjoy immunity from personal arrest and detention.

Austria's foreign ministry confirmed Wednesday the Russian official detained for spying had diplomatic immunity, adding they planned to request Russia strip him of his status.

"We sent a query to the United Nations, and have received a reply this evening, saying that the detained Russian national has diplomatic immunity," the ministry spokesman said.

Austrian prosecutors' spokesman later said they would immediately release the Russian suspect if Moscow refused to strip him of his immunity.

The Russian embassy in Vienna said stripping the detainee of his immunity was out of the question as there was no proof of any wrongdoing on his part.

The Russian national will leave for Moscow immediately upon his release, the embassy source said.

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