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Moscow Court Sentences American Clergyman for Smuggling Ammunition

A Moscow court has sentenced an American clergyman to more than three years in prison on charges of smuggling hunting ammunition into Russia.

Phillip Miles, a pastor from the southern U.S. state of South Carolina, has been in Russian custody since early February, after customs agents at a Moscow airport found a box of 20 rifle shells in his luggage.

At the time of his arrest Miles said the shells were a gift to a friend, a fellow cleric from the Urals city of Perm.

Both Russian and Western news reports say the judge at Monday's hearing accepted Miles' explanation that the ammunition was a gift to a friend. However, the court said Miles was aware of Russian customs regulations.

For his part, Miles, 52, said he regrets the incident. He also called his sentence severe.

The Associated Press quotes the clergyman's lawyer as saying he will appeal the three-year-and-two-month sentence within 10 days.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.