Continued prejudication of Nikitin

Publish date: November 6, 1998

Written by: Jon Gauslaa

"Aleksandr Nikitin disclosed state secrets and inflicted colossal damage on our national security while preparing the Bellona report," Russian Minister for Atomic Energy, Yevgeniy Adamov, told reporters on November 5. Thus, the prejudication against Nikitin from leading Russian officials continues, even after the verdict of the St. Petersburg City Court on October 29. The court decided to end the trial because the indictment was vague.

"While disseminating ecological information, Nikitin acted irresponsibly and damaged the country," Adamov said, continuing: "I saw the materials passed to Norway, and as an expert I think that information about the design and structure of nuclear reactors on Russian submarines has nothing to do with environmental protection." Adamov is referring to the information in the Bellona report’s chapter 2.3, which deals with development of nuclear naval reactors, where Nikitin allegedly disclosed state secrets about third generation reactors.

However, Adamov does not mention that experts from his own ministry (Minatom) evaluated chapter 2.3, concluding in September 1996 that it contains no state secrets. His statement is therefore out of touch with reality, as is his statement that the publication of the information Nikitin had collected "inflicts colossal damage to national interests – even if it may have been published before".

The court found no evidence
According to the indictment, the damage caused by the publication of the alleged secret material in chapter 2.3 equals 4,500,000 million (old) rubles, or approximately $900,000. This is by no means "colossal damage". Besides, the expert evaluation that is the basis for this figure is impossible to understand. As the October 29 verdict states, it "did not help the court to understand the main point of the indictment".

Thus, as the court sees it, no evidence indicating that Nikitin has revealed state secrets or inflicted damage to the national security has been presented. Yet, Mr. Adamov more than hints that Nikitin is guilty of having revealed state secrets with serious consequences, and thereby has violated article 283 part 2 of the Russian Penal Code. Adamov’s statements can hardly be interpreted as anything but an attempt to influence public opinion, and possibly also future courts that will deal with the Nikitin case.

Russia subject to the European Court of Human Rights
However, even the Russian Constitution upholds the principle that anyone charged with a crime shall be considered innocent until found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of justice. Mr. Adamov’s statements clearly violate these provisions, as the trial in St. Petersburg showed that no proof of Nikitin’s culpability exists.

Moreover, the European Court of Human Rights has explicitly stated that no official representative of a state must claim publicly that a person is guilty of a crime before this is proven in a court of law ("Petra Krause vs. Switzerland", 1979). Since Adamov is a minister, his prejudicative statements therefore should expose the Russian Federation to a conviction in the European Court of Human Rights.