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Jailed U.S. pastor appeals smuggling sentence

By RIA Novosti,

Moscow : An appeal has been filed with a Moscow court against a jail sentence of more than three years handed down to an American pastor for illegally bringing ammunition into Russia, a defense attorney said Monday.

Moscow’s Golovinsky district court sentenced Phillip Miles, 58, to three years and two months in prison last month for the illegal possession and smuggling of rifle rounds, declarable under Russian customs law, into the country for his Russian hunting partner.

“We filed an appeal on Sunday with the secretariat of the Golovinsky court, which will be redirected to the Moscow City Court,” attorney Vladimir Ryakhovsky said.

The defense wants the court to acquit Miles of the smuggling charges citing an absence of criminal intention and is requesting the pastor’s sentence be confined to the illegal possession charges. The defense said either the court should release Miles taking into account the time spent on remand or suspend his sentence.

The lawyer added that Miles has also submitted a complaint against the court’s ruling calling it “severe and inadequate.”

Miles, of the Christ Community Church in Conway, South Carolina, was caught with a box of twenty .300-caliber rifle cartridges after landing at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport on January 29.

“Phillip’s complaint is rather emotional, while my appeal contains a thorough legal analysis of the situation notifying that the court ignored the differences between instructions on items declarable in Sheremetyevo airport in the Russian and English languages,” the lawyer said.

According to Ryakhovsky, after reading airport customs advisory boards, the pastor followed the green channel, believing he had no items to declare.

Miles, who visited the country on more than 10 occasions and almost always stayed with his friend in the town of Perm, said the rounds were for his friend’s lever-action Winchester rifle, an antique item that is rare in Russia. The two men were both keen hunters, and had hunting licenses.

The pastor, his lawyer and defense witnesses have said the cleric’s actions were unintentional. After his sentence was read out, Miles told the court: “I’m very disappointed. It’s a strange sentence for one box of hunting bullets.”

Explaining the ruling, the judge said: “The court is skeptical over the pastor’s statement that he did not know he had to declare ammunition being brought into the country – this runs contrary to evidence presented in court.”

The appeal date is expected to be scheduled within a month.