UK

Katia Zatuliveter criticises MI5 over spy inquiry

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Media captionKatia Zatuliveter: "I lost a year of my life"

The Russian woman who won her appeal against deportation has described the MI5 investigation into claims she was a spy as "extremely unprofessional".

Katia Zatuliveter, who had an affair with Lib Dem MP Mike Hancock, said the case had cost her a year of her life.

The Special Immigration Appeals Commission (Siac) said it had seen nothing to prove Miss Zatuliveter was a spy tasked to seduce Mr Hancock.

The Home Office said it was disappointed but stood by its decision.

Mr Hancock, a 65-year-old Portsmouth South MP, said he was "delighted" with Siac's decision and had never doubted Miss Zatuliveter's case.

Miss Zatuliveter, a 26-year-old who worked as a parliamentary researcher for Mr Hancock, said she was "surprised" with the verdict as she felt she had been through "an extremely unfair process" that she didn't believe she could win.

Image caption Katia Zatuliveter said people believed she was a spy because the UK government said so

She told BBC's Panorama: "It was an absolutely horrifying experience and I have simply lost a year of my life.

"I couldn't do anything. Lots of people believed I was a spy, simply because the British government said so."

Speaking about the MI5 investigation, she said: "It was extremely unprofessional. I was absolutely shocked.

"I can understand that they would have suspicion about me as a Russian working in parliament, about my relationships as well, but suspicion is not everything, you have to find evidence."

She also said she believed MI5's knowledge of Russian intelligence was 20 years out of date and based on the Soviet era.

She added: "If you're a Russian in this country you're a spy - they could not understand how you could be a Russian in London and speak the English language."

President of Siac Mr Justice Mitting said in the judgement: "Nothing in the material which we have analysed suggests, let alone demonstrates, that the appellant exploited her relationships for the purposes of the Russian state."

The panel said that her relationship with the MP had been "enduring and genuine".

The appeal, most of which was held in secret, heard that MI5 assessed that Miss Zatuliveter had been placed in Mr Hancock's office by Russian agents because he was a member of the Commons defence select committee.

Mr Hancock, a backbench MP, said he only saw defence documents which were in the public domain and denied passing any secrets on to the Russian, with whom he had a four-year affair.

Speaking after Siac had made its ruling, Mr Hancock told the BBC: "I'm delighted with the result, I'm really proud of the judicial system that has ruled in Katia's favour.

"I never had the slightest hesitation myself about her, and the accuracy of what was being said."

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Media captionMP Mike Hancock: "I never had the slightest hesitation about her"

He said he did not believe that his relationship with Miss Zatuliveter had compromised his work as an MP.

Siac ruled Miss Zatuliveter had not been liaising with Russian spies from either the FSB or SVR agencies and that, even if she had, "we have seen nothing which satisfies us that she was recruited as an agent or was tasked, or acted, as one".

A Home Office spokesman said: "National security is the primary duty of government and we will take all necessary steps to protect the public from individuals we believe pose a threat and remove them from the UK.

"The court ruled that there were ample grounds for suspicion. We are therefore very disappointed by the court's judgement and stand by our decision to pursue deportation on national security grounds."

Miss Zatuliveter has a visa to stay in the UK until next August.

From Russia with Love - A Panorama Special will be broadcast on BBC One at 20.30 GMT on Wednesday. You will also be able to watch it on the iPlayer for the following seven days.

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