The Nuclear Information Service (NIS) is questioning the reasons for the arrest of Katia Zatuliveter, research assistant for Mike Hancock MP, who was arrested last week on suspicion of being a Russian spy.
NIS works regularly with Mike Hancock on areas of mutual interest, which include defence issues and the military nuclear programme. Many of the Parliamentary Questions asked by Mike Hancock about the UK's nuclear weapons and nuclear powered submarines were suggested by NIS as potential lines of inquiry into the costs and safety of the UK's nuclear weapons programme, and to help establish whether the UK is sticking to its international legal obligations under the Non Proliferation Treaty.
These are legitimate areas of public interest, and the suggestion that questions about the UK's nuclear weapons programme should be considered as a suspicious or unreasonable act is quite unacceptable in a democratic society.
MPs from all parties have regularly asked questions about the UK's nuclear weapons programme over many years, and such questions have helped expose a string of cover-ups and lapses in the Ministry of Defence's nuclear programmes, including serious flooding at the Atomic Weapons Establishment in 2007; environmental and safety lapses at the Faslane nuclear submarine base; and sharp recent increases in spending on nuclear weapons at the Atomic Weapons Establishment despite the squeeze on other elements of public expenditure.
Peter Burt, Director of the Nuclear Information Service said: “Virtually all the information published in Parliament is available to the public, and a spy working in Parliament could expect little opportunity to gain access to classified government information. On the basis of the details which have been published in the newspapers, the case against Katia looks incredibly weak.
“Mike Hancock's Parliamentary record shows that he had been asking questions about military nuclear issues long before Katia started working for him, so it is nonsense to say that she has been plotting to extract secret information through her work as his assistant.
“The Home Secretary must ensure that Katia's case is treated according to due legal process and that the evidence against her is examined in public for everyone to scrutinise. Whilst her case is under consideration she should be released from detention and she must not be deported unless and until the case is proved against her.
“It's significant that the details of the story were apparently leaked to the press by officials after Katia's arrest, and the Home Secretary must also investigate the source and the reasons behind this leak.”