Testimony in absentia

Publish date: December 16, 1999

Written by: Runar Forseth

Today's Court session lasted less than two hours reading the last of the case files, bringing no surprises. The schedule for the end of the case became clearer, but is still not set.

The parties finished with most of the remaining case files today, but still have some more work to do tomorrow.

Absent witnesses
Prosecutor Aleksandr Gutsan asked that the testimony of Igor Kudrik, now working for Bellona in Oslo, should be disregarded since he has not been summoned to the Court. The testimony of FSB’s earlier key witness, the late Artemenkov, should on the other hand be taken as evidence, since Russian law provides for such use if the witness cannot be summoned for absolute reasons (such as death).

The defence countered that Artemenkov’s testimony could not in any degree weaken the defence’s case, so it did not forcefully object to the use of it. Chief defender Yury Schmidt did remind the Court, however, that the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) does not allow such use of a testimony.

Judge Golets clarified by explaining that the ECHR does not necessarily disallow such a testimony to be read by the Court, only that the verdict can not be based on it. He then ventured to read some of both the testimonials in question, stating that the Court would decide on how to use them at a later point.

“Through his suggestion of not reading Kudrik’s testimonial, the prosecutor tried to show that he does indeed know something about the Law,” commented Yury Schmidt. “But the main reason for that proposal is that Kudrik’s testimony weakens his case.”

Tomorrow more interesting
Tomorrow will be an interesting day in Court, as two important things should happen. Procurator Aleksandr Gutsan promised today to bring the case files from the Perovsky and Pavlov cases, described earlier.

Perovsky, an also important witness in the case, appeared in Court during the second week. It was then surprisingly revealed that a criminal investigation had been carried out against him, and that he had received an amnesty. In light of his obvious change of mind on several key issues, those case files may have importance to the ongoing trial. Gutsan promised to bring the files to the court the next day, but they never appeared. Tomorrow will be his last chance to do so.

Yury Schmidt wants to read a letter Gutsan wrote in February 1997 to the head of the FSB investigation. Gutsan wrote the letter on order from Vice Procurator General Katuschev, stating in clear terms that the use of secret decrees from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) was illegal when assessing whether state secrets had been revealed. Yesterday showed clearly that such decrees were the only background the 8th Dept. of the MoD has ever used in such cases, and that their unprecedented attempt at referring to the law and officially published normative acts were nothing but superficial. Gutsan tried yesterday to present the MoD decrees as merely technical guidelines, rather than normative acts. In the eyes of the defence he failed utterly in this task, and it is noteworthy that he in the letter that will be read in Court tomorrow denotes the decrees as “normative acts”.

Finishing schedule clearer
Tomorrow is expected to end with Judge Sergey Golets declaring the Court’s investigation finished. He will, however, first ask whether the parties have any objections to this. There is at least a theoretical possibility that Gutsan will demand more witnesses, but it is not likely. Also the Perovsky and Pavlov case files, to be presented to the Court tomorrow, may impact on the further schedule.

The most probable schedule for the trial’s final events is that closing speeches will be held on 22 December. Gutsan will be first out, speaking behind closed doors. Then, at approx. 12:00, the Court will open to the public for the closing speeches of the defence.

The verdict is expected to be revealed on 29 December.