05:54 GMT +322 September 2018
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    U.S. missionary remanded in custody in Russian Far East

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    YUZHNO-SAKHALINSK, July 30 (RIA Novosti) - A court in Russia's Far East remanded in custody a U.S. Pentecostal pastor accused of trying to bribe a Russian official, a RIA Novosti correspondent reported from the courtroom.

    Pak Hio Sun, pastor of the Grace Church, was detained along with his interpreter on June 16 on Sakhalin Island in a police operation in which he was allegedly caught handing a 300,000 rubles ($11,765) bribe to a Federal Migration Service official for hiring illegal Chinese workers.

    The pastor, 65, said the money was not a bribe, but a fine demanded by authorities. The interpreter, a Russian national, was released on the condition that she remain in the country.

    Earlier, defense lawyer Vyacheslav Zhigalov asked for Pak Hio Sun's release, citing health problems, his client's advanced age, and character references from Sakhalin clerics, and saying the pastor would not try to escape justice if released.

    Prosecutor Sergei Chinsky insisted that the pastor be remanded in custody, saying he is a U.S. national without permanent registration, and that he could escape justice.

    The Sakhalin regional court refused the defense team's appeal. The pastor and his translator face up to 500,000 rubles ($19,600) in fines or up to 8 years in prison.

    The Grace Church is located in Kholmsk, formerly Maoka, which was part of Japan until south Sakhalin was annexed by the Soviet Union following World War II. The church has a predominantly ethnically-Korean congregation.

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