Nikitin in Supreme Court 29 March

Publish date: March 17, 2000

Written by: Igor Kudrik

Nikitin defence team has accidentally learned that the Nikitin case will be heard in the Supreme Court in less than two weeks.

The Supreme Court session regarding the Nikitin case is scheduled for March 29. The information came from the secretariat of the Supreme Court, where Nikitin’s lawyer Yury Schmidt called today. The clerk who answered the phone told Schmidt casually that the date is set. To his surprise, Schmidt also found out that the defence team was not supposed to be informed about the date.

Nikitin was charged with espionage and disclosure of state secrets for his work as co-author of the Bellona Report The Russian Northern Fleet. He was arrested by the Russian Security Police (FSB) on February 1996 and spent 10 months in custody. Following his release, Nikitin was under city arrest in St. Petersburg. His case was tried in St. Petersburg City Court between October 20 and 29, 1998, where the decision was to send it back to the FSB for further investigation. This decision was later reaffirmed by the Supreme Court.

On November 23, 1999, the case was once again tried in the St. Petersburg City Court and ended with full acquittal on December 29, 1999. The prosecution lodged an appeal with the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation the next day asking for case re-evaluation by another judge.

According to Schmidt, the defence team was not to be formally informed about the Supreme Court session date, since it was the prosecutor who asked to overrule the City Court’s verdict. “But this is not the case where such formalities are followed”, said Schmidt who started to become suspicious over the outcome in the Supreme Court. “More over, the defence team sent its remarks regarding the prosecutor’s appeal and they have to be considered in line with the prosecution position during the session”, added Schmidt.

Schmidt has no doubts that the defence team will be granted access to the court session and be heard there. He could not answer definitively, however, if they were to be invited, given he would not call the Supreme Court today.

The court will consist of a presiding judge and two assisting judges. The court session will most likely be closed for public due to the ‘state secrets’ involved and will last for several hours. The Supreme Court has the power to dismiss the prosecutor’s appeal, to accept it, or even to forward the case for additional investigation back to the FSB.