Italian who met with a former Russian spy questioned

Iran Materials 27 December 2006 16:58 (UTC +04:00)

(AP) - An Italian man who met with a former Russian spy in London the day the ex-KGB agent fell ill from poisoning is seeking to be released from prison, his lawyer said Wednesday.

Mario Scaramella was arrested Sunday in Naples after returning from London, and was questioned by Italian prosecutors in a Rome jail, where he is being detained. The arrest is not believed to be directly connected to the case of poisoned former spy Alexander Litvinenko, reports Trend.

"We intend to seek his immediate release from prison," lawyer Sergio Rastrelli told reporters shortly before the questioning. "My client will respond to all questions and will clarify any ... misunderstanding."

Rastrelli said Scaramella is accused of slander, but according to Italian news reports and Scaramella's father, Amedeo, he is also accused of international arms trafficking.

Scaramella met with Litvinenko at a London sushi bar on Nov. 1, the day the former KGB agent fell ill. Litvinenko died of poisoning from radioactive polonium-210 on Nov. 23.

The Italian man has said he showed Litvinenko e-mails from a confidential source identifying the possible killers of Russian investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya and listing other potential targets for assassination -- including himself and Litvinenko.

On his deathbed, Litvinenko blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin for involvement in his poisoning -- an allegation that the Kremlin has denied.

Scaramella said he did not eat during his meeting with Litvinenko at the London sushi bar. But he was hospitalized for several days in London after testing positive for polonium-210, although he showed no symptoms.

Scaramella has been a consultant for the Mitrokhin commission, which was formed in Italy in 2002 with the aim of investigating cases of past KGB infiltration in Italy.

According to Italian newspapers Wednesday, Scaramella is accused of fabricating a story that there was a plot against his life and that of Paolo Guzzanti, a senator who served as chair of the commission.

Prosecutors allege that Scaramella made up the plot to gain credit before secret service and commission officials, according to Corriere della Sera daily and other reports.

The Foreign Ministry said that Scaramella, a self-styled security and environmental expert, has repeatedly tried over the past years to become a full-fledged member of the Italian secret services, but that his efforts have been turned down.