Gutsan shows his cards

Publish date: December 17, 1999

Written by: Thomas Nilsen

Procurator Aleksandr Gutsan used the final day of the court hearing to present his cards: A letter from the Ministry of Justice, confirming that the secret retroactive decrees the charges against Nikitin are based on, do not need registration in the Ministry, since they are not normative acts.

Nikitin trial – day 16

Aleksandr Nikitin and his defence team were surprised when the final day of the court hearings ended just before one o’clock today. “Gutsan never stops to surprise us, but this was more than we expected,” was Nikitin’s first comment when the closed doors into court room 48 opened after Judge Sergey Golets officially announced the court hearing terminated.

Gutsan presented four documents for the court today. “Today’s behaviour of Gutsan shows clearly how the prosecution and the FSB are violating the Russian Constitution and federal laws,” said chief defense attorney Yury Schmidt at the briefing for the observers and journalists this afternoon.

Present at the briefing were representatives from the Norwegian, Danish, Swedish, Finnish Canadian, American and French consulates, Norwegian parliamentarian Bjoern Haernes, and several Russian organisations.


Perovsky files finally revealed

Gutsan finally gave the court the long-promised files of the cases against two other individuals under investigation in connection with the Bellona Northern Fleet Report. The files concerning the investigation against Vyacheslav Perovsky showed that the FSB launched a case against him in autumn 1996, when Aleksandr Nikitin was still in custody.

Perovsky helped Bellona with the Northern Fleet report as an advisor, and prepared much of the information regarding the nuclear waste storage in Andreeva Bay at the Kola Peninsula. After the arrest of Aleksandr Nikitin, he personally said he supported Nikitin 100 percent, and confirmed that there were no state secrets in the Bellona Report.

Later, after the FSB launched the investigation against him, he turned around and changed his mind. According to the files Gutsan showed in court today, the “Perovsky case” was officially dismissed in October of this year and confirmed closed on November 11th, just a few weeks before Perovsky appeared in Court as the prosecution’s main witness.

The reason given for the dismissal was Perovsky’s age.

The Pavlov case

The FSB also launched an investigation against Aleksandr Pavlov, author of a book about naval vessels in the Russian Navy. The second edition of this book was the main source used in the Bellona Report. Therefore, the FSB charged him for releasing state secrets. Pavlov lives in Yakutsk in Siberia.

The most interesting points in the files about Pavlov, which Gutsan presented to the Court, were the reasons for dismissing the case against him. First of all, Pavlov did not use his position to get access to state secrets, since he has never been in the navy. His sources of information, nonetheless, were former naval officers today living in Israel. The second reason strictly contradicted what Prosecutor Gutsan is trying to get Nikitin convicted for. The FSB says in their conclusion that no charges against Pavlov will be raised because he only used open sources in his book, referring to three books, among them the Bellona Report “Sources to radioactive contamination in Murmansk and Arkhangel’sk counties.” The experts witnesses heard in court earlier this week said they did not take the open-source-argument into consideration when they concluded that there were states secrets in the Northern Fleet Report.


Minatom document

Gutsan also presented a recent document from the Russian Ministry of Nuclear Energy (Minatom). Minatom made an expert evaluation of the Bellona Report, where they concluded that there were no state secrets in the Report. They did the expert evaluation in accordance with the federal Law on State Secrets and did not use secret decrees.

In the document presented in court today, Minatom underlines that even the fact that the Minatom experts did not find any state secrets does not mean that other “organs” can not find state secrets in the text.

“This is how it works in Russia. Internal decrees in other departments or ministries are overruling the federal laws,” commented Schmidt.

Secret decrees

Upon request from procurator Gutsan, the Ministry of Justice has written a letter confirming that the secret decrees Nikitin is charged with violating do not need registration in the Ministry, since they are not normative acts. Gutsan used this argument today in order to convince the court that the charges, based on secret decrees, against Nikitin are in accordance with the law.

“By using this argument, Gutsan is contradicting himself in a most astonishing way,” says Jon Gauslaa, legal advisor of Bellona. Gauslaa is referring to an earlier order sent by Gutsan to the FSB in connection with the Nikitin charges. Gutsan was ordered by Russia’s General Prosecutor to order the FSB not to base the charges on secret decrees. “Besides, if the decrees are not normative acts, they do not establish any duties for Russian citizens, and no criminal case can be based on them,” Gauslaa added, “but two days ago the experts from the General Staff confirmed that the decrees are the sole basis for the case.”

In accordance with the Russian Constitution and a subsequent Constitutional Court ruling, it is only legal to prosecute a person for revelation of state secrets to a foreign state if a list of secret information has been published officially for general knowledge. There are no exemptions for persons who obtained such information during their military service.

“There have been eight sets of charges against Nikitin. This shows that the FSB have serious problems in finding a legal base for their charges,” says Schmidt.

“The prosecutor said that the secret decrees are not normative acts and therefore do not need registration. This is impossible to understand. Aleksandr spent 10 months in custody because of these decrees, and today they say they’re not normative acts,” says Schmidt.

Final speeches

The closing arguments will be presented on Wednesday, 22 December. Prosecutor Gutsan will begin with his behind closed doors, starting at 11:00 a.m.

“I know why he (Gutsan) wants to talk behind closed doors. Were the doors open, everyone would see for themselves what the charges are all about,” says Yury Schmidt, adding, “The paradox is the following: the verdict will be announced in an open court hearing. This is the law. If Nikitin is convicted, then the court will disclose the so-called state secrets to the world.”

After Gutsan is finished, probably just reading the charges once more, the doors will open for public. This is expected to occur around 12:30 p.m. Then Nikitin’s defence team Mikhail Matinov, Ivan Pavlov and Yury Schmidt have their speeches.

When the judge asks me what kind of verdict I expect, I will answer I expect an acquittal,” says Schmidt.


After the closing arguments on December 22, the court will recess until the announcement of the verdict. This is most likely to happen on December 28 or 29.

Yury Schmidt ended the briefing today by expressing a concern. “The judges are also human, and they are under pressure, not only by the ongoing media campaign against Nikitin and Bellona. I do not exclude any rough pressure on the court. That’s why I have worried more and more during the last few weeks,” said Schmidt.