The prosecutor strikes back

Publish date: January 7, 2000

Written by: Jon Gauslaa

In his appeal against the Nikitin-acquittal, the prosecutor demands a third City Court hearing, claiming that the acquittal contradicts the facts. More striking, however, is that he wants the case to be handled “by another judge”.


When Aleksandr Nikitin was acquitted on December 29, 1999, the St. Petersburg prosecutor’s office immediately announced that it would appeal, and it kept its word.

Gutsan’s groundless appeal

Nikitin’s defence has now been familiarised with the he content of the appeal. It became somewhat astonished to discover that the appeal only consists of the following:

“I consider the ruling of the City Court to be wrong since it has been taken in contradiction with the factual content of the case. I demand the ruling to be dismissed and the case forwarded to consideration by another judge.”

Believe it or not, but that is all prosecutor Gutsan has to say. He gives absolutely no reasons for his claim that the ruling contradicts the “factual content of the case”, but hints that he may come up with more after having “studied the protocol of the court hearing”.

It will, however, be impossible for Gutsan to substantiate his claim. Two thirds of the verdict deals with the facts described in the indictment and the evidence of the case. Thus, the verdict is indeed based on the facts. But more important: it is based on the Constitution and not on the secret and retroactive decrees, which were the sole basis for Gutsan’s case.

It is easy to understand why the prosecutor demands another judge. Sergei Golets turned out to be an independent judge. He did not take the FSB’s biased allegations for granted, but evaluated the case objectively and based his decision on the law.

This seems to have taken Gutsan by surprise, since the man’s performance throughout the trial suggested that the only judges he had met before were judges acting as his co-prosecutors. Actually, this was quite normal in Soviet times, and according to various sources it still occurs. However, as the Russian judiciary is slowly adapting to the Rule of Law and the Constitution, such incidents are not so common as they used to be. So, hopefully Mr. Gutsan’s attempt will turn out to be a last blast from the past.

It is too early to predict when the Supreme Court will handle the appeal case, but it has to come up with one of the three following decisions:

  • It may reject the prosecutor’s appeal, which will mean that the acquittal is confirmed by Russia’s Supreme legal authority and that the case against Nikitin is finally over.
  • It may approve the appeal, which will mean that the case for the third time will be evaluated by St. Petersburg City Court, but by another judge than Sergei Golets.
  • It may return the case to additional investigation because of the prosecution’s significant violations of the Russian Criminal Procedure Code.

    It goes without saying that only the first of these possibilities is acceptable. The prosecutor’s appeal is utterly groundless and if the Supreme Court should approve it or return the case to additional investigation, such a decision will clearly not have been taken on the basis of the law.

    However, I believe that the Supreme Court will realise this, and confirm the legal opinion that is expressed in the City Court’ verdict: That the Constitution is the supreme legislation of the Russian Federation.