Comments on the latest developments in the Nikitin case

Publish date: September 23, 1997

Press release from Alexandr Nikitin’s lawyer Yury Shmidt, St. Petersburg

Comments on the latest developments in the Nikitin case

On September 9 1997 new charges were levelled once again against Nikitin. They bear no differences in their core (in other words in the part of "criminal activity" alleged to him) from the one levelled in June: The same file with slight modifications.

The very fact that two years (!) have passed from the moment of launching the criminal case; that the charges have been prepared and levelled the fifth time (!) after the arrest of Nikitin; says much for itself. This fact documents a clear commotion in the investigative body, it documents the FSB’s efforts by all available means to force the innocent person into jail.

In December last year the defence council informed the press that FSB and Prosecutor’s office in St. Petersburg refused to carry out the orders issued by deputy of the General Prosecutor of Russian Federation to release Nikitin from custody, and, more over, committed an attempt, by falsifying the documents, to make it look like at the moment they received the order, obligatory and immediate for conduction, the case had been transferred to court.

Having realised that at the stage of submitting the files of the case for the accused to read them through, it would not be possible to hide the evidences proving the fact of the falsification, the investigation body found a way out: They simply withdrew all the documents from the case’s files which proved the falsified development in the case since December 11 1996, thus committing an offence. We discovered the fraud on September 17, the day when the additional investigation was to be finalised.

Having discovered the fraud, the accused refused to proceed reading through the case’s files and filed a complaint requesting the restoration of the withdrawn documents. Once it is done, he will start reading through the case’s files.

At the present moment, there is no possibility to provide the profound assertion of the results of the additional investigation, although a number of essential points can be marked out.

The so-called additional investigation has been continuing for more than 7 months (from February 13 till September 17 1997). During this period of time Nikitin’s rights were quite restricted: On the excuse of his permanent presence for taking part in the investigation procedures, the investigator did not grant him the permissions even for short term travels outside St. Petersburg city boundaries, including the need to travel to assist his sick mother and 90-years old grandfather.

For more than two months after returning from the General Prosecutor’s office, the case was idling in St. Petersburg. In the end of April, Nikitin was called up to be introduced to the resolution to put together an additional experts commission.

On June 17, the new charges were presented to Nikitin, after which he asked for one week to prepare his depositions to the alleged accusations. Investigator Utkin’s response was that he would have to finalise the case without interrogation, and the next day would declare it officially. Although, as it became clear in a few weeks time later, "the next day" he was in the General Prosecutor’s office, where, referring to the "necessity to satisfy the request of the accused and provide him with his legal right to make depositions" (so it stands in Utkin’s request to the General Prosecutor), he asked to prolong the investigation for …3 (THREE) months, motivating the time by the fact that after having received Nikitin’s depositions, "investigative procedures would have to be conducted in order to verify them".

The very first "investigative procedure" was immediate departure of Utkin for a long term holiday. The depositions to the charges were made ready by Nikitin by June 24, as promised. Although it became possible to pass them over to Utkin’s assistant only one month later. Naturally, none of the investigative procedures "for their verification" (none at all) were conducted till September 9, when, as it was mentioned above, a well-rested Utkin called Nikitin for levelling the new (old) charges. In other words, the investigator once again plainly deceived the General Prosecutor’s office.

The only countable difference of the new charges from the previous ones is shifting of the legal motivation in relation to the secrecy of the data collected by Nikitin. During the first stage of investigation the defence council proved the complete incompetence of the experts from Directorate 8 of the Head Quarters of the Ministry of Defence. The experts indicated in the conclusion of their findings, dated September 10 1996, that they "were led by the Law on State Secrets", at the same time referring to none of the particular articles of the Law, since even having desire to do so they would not find a suitable one.

Yet, for the sake of truth, it should be mentioned that having realised that the reference to the classified, unpublished decree of the Minister of Defence is not enough, the experts referred to p.6 of the Decree no.1203 of the President of the Russian Federation, issued on November 30 1995. The reference was wrong though, since the p.6 regards data related to long term programs and plans of weaponry development, contents of the special scientific and research programs, etc. This paragraph has nothing to do with the information on nuclear-powered submarines accidents.

In an attempt to correct the mistakes and, at the same time, continuing to pick out the decrees randomly, the next experts commission findings (for sure with tips from FSB) were enriched with the reference to one more paragraph in the Decree of the President and to article 5 of the Law of the Russian Federation on State Secrets. This fact in its core does not contribute to the fidelity towards the experts which today make one conclusion and tomorrow another. Although the main point is that none of the references to the articles in the Law and Decree do fit the incriminated texts. Letting alone the fact, that all the alleged actions Nikitin is accused for were committed in August-September 1995, before the Presidential decree was published. In accordance with article 54 of the Russian Constitution and internationally recognised fundamental principles of human rights, any of the legal documents, establishing or aggravating responsibility, do not have retrospective force.

Having repeated that the information in the incriminated documents contains state secrets as defined by decree of the Minister of defence no.071 issued in 1993, the experts made a reference to the similar articles of the fresher decree no.055, which came into force on September 1 1996. And although at the very time of issuing this decree Nikitin was spending his time in custody, the investigator, without any hints of doubts, accused him in violation of this particular decree. This fact requires no comments.

All the proposals from the defence council related to the participants of the expert commission, as well as the questions to be put to the experts to answer, were rejected by FSB. In other words, all the rights guaranteed to Nikitin by law were violated during the additional investigation, as has been the rule throughout the whole process.

The estimation of the Nikitin case by international opinion is generally known. It was expressed in numerous appeals from Russian state and public persons, authoritative international organisations and persons, etc. In spite of this, FSB is by all means trying to drag the decomposing case to court. And once again we ask ourselves: What do they count on? Surely, this secret police is not as powerful as it used to be, but its abilities to put pressure on a court and affect the results are still quite strong. The confidence within FSB in the fact that the brutal violation of the laws will not cause them any troubles, inspires concern for the outcome in the Nikitin case and for the destiny of our society.

Yury Shmidt