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Russia's Supreme Court closes book on spy case

To the relief of environmental and human rights activists, Russia's Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the acquittal of an ex-navy officer accused of espionage for revealing the perils of decaying nuclear submarines.

The decision closed a case that had drawn international criticism as it dragged on for four years. Alexander Nikitin's cause was championed by environmental and other activists who accused the government of Soviet-style persecution.

"Today I am very happy," Nikitin said after Wednesday's court ruling. "What happened is a triumph of law and justice."

Nikitin was arrested in 1996 for preparing a report on decaying nuclear warships for the Norwegian environmental group Bellona. The report described 52 submarines whose spent nuclear fuel could have leaked or exploded.

Russia's main intelligence agency accused Nikitin of sharing secret information with foreigners and he was jailed for nearly a year.

A St. Petersburg court acquitted Nikitin in December, ruling the information was not classified as secret at the time.

The Supreme Court upheld that ruling in April, but prosecutors appealed. On Wednesday, the Presidium of the Supreme Court _ the court's highest body _ rejected the appeal.

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