When Aleksandr Nikitin was acquitted on December 29, 1999, the St. Petersburg prosecutors office immediately announced that it would appeal, and it kept its word.
Gutsans groundless appeal
Nikitins 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 Gutsans 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 FSBs 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 mans 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. Gutsans 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 goes without saying that only the first of these possibilities is acceptable. The prosecutors 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.