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Russia's espionage, treason laws draw ire

Nov. 14, 2012 at 7:17 AM   |   Comments

MOSCOW, Nov. 14 (UPI) -- New laws concerning espionage and treason went into effect Wednesday in Russia, raising concerns on the country's Human Rights Council.

The new laws state treason not only includes activities in the interest of foreign intelligence agencies but also actions in the interests of international organizations if they are directly engaged in intelligence, ITAR-Tass reported.

Russia's criminal code also was amended to direct that a person convicted for "illegal receipt of information constituting a state secret" can face up to four years in prison if that person obtained the secret by unlawful means, such as theft.

The changes, signed Tuesday by President Vladimir Putin, expand the definition of treason to include activities that jeopardize Russia's "constitutional order, sovereignty and territorial and state integrity," RIA Novosti reported.

Supporters said the language was meant to eliminate potential for subjective interpretation but critics said the law's wording is so vague that it could be used against almost any contact with foreigners.

Putin seemed to take the criticism into consideration Monday when he told the Council on Human Rights he would "take a more attentive look" at it, RIA Novosti reported.

"But I believe this law is very dangerous," Human Rights Council member Liliya Shibanova told RIA Novosti Wednesday. "If, for example, I pass on information about alleged poll violations to a foreign journalist, this could be considered espionage."

Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed to RIA Novosti Wednesday the president would introduce amendments to the law if "there appear problem areas or certain aspects limiting the rights and freedoms of citizens."

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