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  Tuesday, February 25, 2020
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The United States Embassy has urged a Moscow court to reconsider
The United States Embassy has urged a Moscow court to reconsider a jail term of more than three years handed down to an American pastor convicted of smuggling rifle cartridges into the country.

Phillip Miles, 58, 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. He was later charged with illegal possession and smuggling of ammunition.

"The U.S. Embassy in Moscow continues to raise the issue of the Mr. Miles's case with the Russian authorities, in support of an appeal or shortening of the prison sentence," an embassy staffer told RIA Novosti.

Miles had told Moscow's Golovinsky Court he was bringing the rounds to his Russian hunting partner in Perm. His sentence of three years and two months was handed down by the court on Monday.

His church has also criticized the ruling, saying on its website: "our church family are deeply disappointed with this unjust sentence. An appeal of the decision will be filed... His case is not over and the church family remains hopeful that we will be reunited with Pastor Phillip soon."

Miles, who visited the country on more than 10 occasions and almost always stayed with his friend in 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.

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 had 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 pastor, his lawyer and defense witnesses have said the cleric's actions were unintentional. His lawyers plan to contest the decision at a higher court, the Moscow City Court, within the next 10 days.


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