Russia cuts bullet-carrying pastor’s jail term

Russian court cuts US pastor’s jail term for smuggling rifle shells

A Russian court on Monday reduced the three-year prison sentence of a U.S. pastor convicted of smuggling rifle ammunition and ordered him set free.

The Moscow City Court reduced Phillip Miles‘ sentence to 10 months and ruled that he should be freed from custody without serving all of it. Miles, who has been in jail since Feb. 3, will likely be set free Tuesday after the completion of the necessary formalities, his lawyer said, and he will be allowed to leave Russia.

A pastor at the Christ Community Church in Conway, South Carolina, Miles was convicted in April after security officers at a Moscow airport found a box of .300-caliber cartridges in his luggage.

He repeatedly apologized, saying that the ammunition was for a Russian friend who had recently bought a Winchester rifle and that he did not know bringing such ammunition into the country was illegal.

– Source: Russian court cuts US pastor’s jail term for smuggling rifle shells, AP, June 23, 2008, via the International Herald Tribune

Miles, who stayed with his friend in the city of Perm when visiting Russia, said earlier the rounds were for his friend’s lever-action Winchester rifle, an antique item that is rare in Russia. The two men are both keen hunters, and had hunting licenses.

The defense team provided letters from Russia’s human rights ombudsman and 62 members of U.S. Congress with requests for the cleric’s acquittal.

“Does a priest, who has served people for 30 years absolving their sins, have to be isolated from society,” lawyer Vladimir Ryakhovsky said in the courtroom.

The court was earlier skeptical over the pastor’s claims that he did not know he had to declare ammunition being brought into the country.

The lawyer earlier cited “the differences between instructions on items declarable in Sheremetyevo airport in the Russian and English languages” as an argument in his client’s favor.

– Source: U.S. pastor receives suspended term for Russia ammo smuggling, RIA Novosti, Russia, June 23, 2008

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This post was last updated: Jun. 24, 2008