International observers gather in St. Petersburg

Publish date: October 19, 1998

Written by: Siri Engesæth

ST. PETERSBURG (Bellona Web): Yuri Schmidt fears the court will not be courageous enough to acquit Aleksandr Nikitin.

The practise of using laymen as jurors in these cases is said to have been forced forward by the lack of professional judges, but Schmidt believes it is still not good, as he never had the impression that the real judges were overworked.

Judge Golets, who is to proceed over the trial against Nikitin, has said to journalists that he will use his regular jurors. At the court hearing, after the preparatory trial is over, the judge and the two jurors formally have the same power. "Our criminal proceedings code has regulations on this, but the practise is that the main judge makes the ruling by himself. But there has been rare cases where the judge retreated to make a ruling together with the laymen. If the laymen want a different ruling, the judge will say, ‘why do not you write the ruling?’," said Schmidt.

"I want to believe that Judge Golets is courageous. During the pretrial, the prosecutor jumped up and said, ‘the guards does not have a clearance, what if they find this interesting and wants to become spyes.’ Golets overruled that. But formally in Russia the prosecutor is in charge of making sure that the court’s rules are followed. He must not allow laymen without security clearance," said Schmidt.

"The dissidents trials during the Soviet era where kept closed by a uniformed guard at the entrance, who told arriving audience that all seats were taken. When the family looked inside, they saw the courtroom full of young men in almost identical clothes. I hope this will not be the case tomorrow."