Nikitin trial to start on November 23

Publish date: November 16, 1999

Written by: Jon Gauslaa

In the resolution scheduling the Nikitin trial for November 23, Judge Sergei Golets states that the St. Petersburg City Court must hear the opinion of both sides before deciding whether the case shall be dismissed or not. Golets has maintained the secrecy of the indictment, but Nikitin is not deprived from his right to conduct a proper defence.

City Court to hear both sides
On November 11, Judge Sergei Golets announced that the trial against Aleksandr Nikitin will start on November 23, 1999 at 11 a.m. in the St. Petersburg City Court (location: Nabereshnaya Reki Fontanki 16). The resolution is based on the Russian Criminal Procedure Code and contains no surprises. As the Code gives almost no possibilities for a court to evaluate the foundation of a criminal case before the trial, one had to expect that the defence’s motion for a dismissal would be turned down.

It is however, noteworthy that Judge Golets did not turn down the request because it was groundless, but because “at the present time no grounds exist for dismissing the case before hearing it in the court“. Neither the questions raised in the request for dismissal nor the questions concerning the prosecution’s use of secret and retroactive decrees as the basis for the charges could “be solved unilaterally without hearing both sides [and] examining the case files and the expert conclusions“, writes Golets.

The case is to be heard at a “closed court session with the participation of one judge and two jurors.” This is based on Article 4 of the Russian Federal Law on State Secrets and Article 18 of the Criminal Procedure Code. However, this was the case also with last years’ trial, and then parts of the trial were nevertheless carried out in sessions open to the public. Thus, it is reason to believe that the public will be allowed access to some of the court sessions also throughout the forthcoming trial, for instance when the court examines whether the Bellona-report could have been taken from open sources or not.

Indictment still secret
On November 11, Golets also decided that he could not accommodate the defence’s request for a declassification of the indictment. The defence was, however, allowed to work with the indictment before the trial. Since the indictment is almost identical with last years’ indictment, except from the addition of some quotations of alleged secret information from chapter 8 of the Bellona report, the secrecy of the indictment can not be considered as a major obstacle for the defence. Thus, the Court has not deprived Nikitin from his possibilities to carry out a proper defence.

The said situation does not conform with the principle on “equality of arms” which is evident of Articles 6 (1) and 6 (3) (b) of the European Convention on Human Rights, especially since the indictment was finalised in early September 1999, while the defence was first allowed to see it on November 11. This is, however, a result of the regulations of the Russian Criminal Procedure Code, and for the time being one has to live with the fact that Russia’s ratification of the Convention, did not solve all problems connected with the lack of conformity between the Convention and internal legislation.

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