FSB vs. the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office

Press release from Nikitin’s defence attorneys, Moscow

FSB vs. the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office

Nearly 26 months have passed since a criminal lawsuit was filed against Aleksandr Nikitin, an employee of the Norwegian environmental organisation Bellona. During this period, Nikitin was charged five times,and three times the investigators announced the preliminary investigation was completed. The entire investigative team was reshuffled and their chiefs purged three times: chief investigator I. Maksimenko and then B.Utkin were removed, finally lieutenant-colonel A.Kolb was put in charge of the investigation in November of 1997.

Severe violations of legal procedures and the rights of the accused during the investigation forced Nikitin’s defence to file repeated complaints to the Russian Constitutional and Supreme Courts and to the Prosecutor General’s Office. In response to these moves, the FSB made public statements about the intention of the defence to impede the investigation. In all these instances, however, every argument of the defence was recognized and supported by the authorities the defence appealed to.

At the end of the first stage of the investigation, granting the petition filed by the defence, the Prosecutor General’s Office reviewed the case. On January 27, 1997, disagreeing with the St. Petersburg branch of the FSB and the city prosecutor’s office decision to turn the case over to a local court, the Deputy Prosecutor General issued a statement prolonging the preliminary investigation. Stressing "numerous mistakes and violations" committed during the investigation, the statement demanded their correction and suggested that only if the accusation were "based on the law" should the investigation bring formal charges against Nikitin.

Today, 10 months later, we can state that in its major part, the directions from the Prosecutor General’s Office have not been fulfilled.

It is well known that the defence has completely disagreed with the investigators claim that information containing state secrets was contained in the Bellona report: Their conclusion was based on the list of classified data stated not in the Law of the Russian Federation "On state secrets," but in secret orders of the Defence Minister. According to the Russian Constitution, the orders mentioned are not to be applied, because, first, they contradict the above mentioned Law, and, second, they have never been made public. Besides, in spite of the repeated demands of the defence lawyers, these orders have never been shown to them.

The Deputy Prosecutor General shared the position of the defence completely, and ruled it inadmissible to charge anyone with divulging state secrets on the grounds of the information lists "issued as classified and never published in the open press".

Being unable to bring charges against Nikitin BASED ON THE LAW, the investigation pretended to follow the ruling, but, in fact, it not only failed to correct the above-mentioned violations, but committed new ones. For example, as the Prosecutor General’s ruled it inadmissible to file charges on the ground of Defence Minister’s orders Nos. 052 and 071, issued 1992 and 1993 respectively, the investigation decided to refer to another order: No 055, issued August, 1996. This last order, besides being also "classified" and never made public, could not be applied for yet another reason: It was issued ONE YEAR after Nikitin had committed the actions incriminated!

Thus the cited act was applied retroactively, which is a gross violation of fundamental legal norms as stated in international agreements, the Russian Constitution, and procedural legislation.

As the three previous expert examinations failed to answer certain important questions most substantial for establishing the truth, the Deputy Prosecutor General ordered a fourth evaluation. The investigation complied with this order, but only formally, completely whittling away its meaning: It declined every question submitted by the accused and his defence. Besides, the expert group consisted of persons who had already demonstrated their incompetence, reluctant to follow the law and complete dependent on the FSB. This time, they managed to excel themselves. In no way does the submitted document meet the standards of an expert conclusion: Its authors, trained as qualified military engineers, have by far exceeded their professional competence. One third of their verdict consists of vain attempts at a kind of legal research which turns out to be sheer demagoguery.

The FSB`s answer to the Prosecutor General’s ruling is, in fact, a confirmation of the intentions of this service to act exclusively at its own discretion and not follow orders based on the law.

In the next few days, the defence is going to file still another petition demanding an end to the fabricated "Nikitin case." Holding justice, human rights, and common sense up to mockery must be stopped.

Nikitin’s defence attorneys

Bellona

info@bellona.no