WASHINGTON (AP) â€” Choking back tears, the wife of an American businessman imprisoned in Moscow on espionage charges proclaimed his innocence Thursday and asked the Russian government to free him.
Cheryl Pope said her husband Edmond's arrest has ``torn apart'' their family. She said she recently spent their 30th anniversary wedding anniversary ``alone, afraid for Ed and wondering whether he was being hurt, whether he had food and wondering whether he received the blanket I sent him.''
Mrs. Pope told a Capitol Hill news conference she plans to fly to Moscow on Saturday to visit him and meet with Russian officials to discuss his case.
``Ed did not do anything wrong and does not belong in prison,'' she said.
Pope, who runs CERF Technologies International, a high-tech consulting firm in State College, Pa., has been in the Lefortovo Prison since April 3.
The Russians contend he was seeking plans for a submarine-fired underwater missile. However, Rep. Curt Weldon, R-Pa., said Pope only was gathering information about a torpedo that has been advertised commercially.
``Ed Pope is no spy. I do not say that lightly,'' said Weldon, who since taking office in 1987 has dealt extensively with Russian-American military issues. He is also chairman of the House Military Research and Development subcommittee.
Weldon tried to see Pope during a visit to Russia this week, but was denied a meeting. He criticized President Clinton for not discussing Pope's case when he met with Russian leader Vladimir Putin earlier this month.
Pope, 53, is a former Navy captain. He worked for three years with Pennsylvania State University's Applied Research Laboratory, which does research for the Navy. He left in 1997 to start CERF Technologies International.
Rep. John Peterson, R-Pa., whose district includes State College, criticized the State Department for not pushing the Russians to release Pope and not keeping Mrs. Pope informed.
``The State Department has been very ineffective in at least being able to comfort this woman. The government at least owes to a family comfort, information and at least some promise of hope,'' he said.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said, ``This is an issue that we are concerned about and we're going to raise it as appropriate with the Russian authorities. I don't know exactly when we're going to raise it.''
The Russian Embassy did not respond to a request for comment.
Pope suffers from bone cancer, which currently is in remission. His wife said she has received no confirmation he is being given the proper medicine. She also said she had been told that he's lost 25 pounds.
Boucher said U.S. officials have been told by the Russians that Pope received food and medicine sent by Pope's family ``although not as quickly as we and his family would have liked.''
Peterson's chief-of-staff, Robert Ferguson, and press secretary, Jennifer Bennett, will accompany Mrs. Pope to Russia.