U.S. prisoner's wife braces herself for verdict in espionage case

MOSCOW - Allowed to visit her husband for only the fourth time since his arrest in April on espionage charges, Cheri Pope said Tuesday his health has deteriorated so badly he cannot write and she begged President Vladimir Putin to let him get treatment.

Edmond Pope had suffered from bone cancer before coming to Moscow and his supporters fear it has returned during his incarceration. He has been examined by a prison doctor, but requests for an examination by an English-speaking or American doctor have been denied.

''Ed looked the worst that I've ever seen him in his life,'' Cheri Pope told reporters after meeting with her husband in Moscow's grim Lefortovo prison.

Pope also had trouble talking and was suffering from high blood pressure and possibly nerve damage, as he was unable to form letters with his pen when he tried to take notes during the meeting, she said.

''I know I have pleaded before, but I want to plead to Mr. Putin: This is a sick man, and he needs medical care now - not a week from now, not a month from now,'' Cheri Pope said.

She said she and her husband had lost all hope for an acquittal or a fair trial. All but a few defense motions filed by Pope's lawyer, Pavel Astakhov, have been thrown out, and supporters say the judge seems strongly biased in favor of the prosecution.

Pope is scheduled to deliver his closing statement Wednesday, and a verdict is expected soon afterward. Cheri Pope said she has been given permission to attend the closed-door trial when the verdict is read.

''I am bracing myself for him to be found guilty,'' she said Tuesday. ''I'm going to have to sit there and listen to my husband be sentenced to the maximum penalty.''

Pope is accused of obtaining classified blueprints for a high-speed torpedo. His key accuser has recanted his testimony, and the defense contends the blueprints had already been sold abroad and published.

But prosecutors have demanded the maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, and payment of a staggering $250 million for damages to Russia's defense industry.

During the seven-week trial, Pope has suffered attacks of sharp pain and he has been permitted to sit during the court hearings rather than standing as prisoners usually do.

Cheri Pope's voice broke several times as she fought back tears, and she had to be supported by her arm as she walked out of the Lefortovo prison.

She said she would continue efforts to get her husband medical care.

''I am not going to give up, and I am not going to go away,'' she said.

Pope, 54, is a retired U.S. Navy officer and founder of CERF Technologies International, a company specializing in studying foreign maritime equipment.


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