The prosecutor’s groundless appeal

Publish date: March 22, 2000

Written by: Jon Gauslaa

The Russian Supreme Court will handle the prosecutor’s appeal against the acquittal of Aleksandr Nikitin on March 29. It has only one lawful alternative: To confirm the acquittal and end the case once and for all.

When the St. Petersburg City Court acquitted Aleksandr Nikitin on December 29, 1999, the prosecutor launched a preliminary appeal on December 30 claiming that the ruling of the City Court is “wrong”. The prosecutor tries to substantiate his point of view in a 16-pages long document, dated February 1, 2000. Here he claims that the Court’s ruling contradicts the facts of the case, that it is based on a “arbitrary and selective” application of the law, and that the Court has not carried out a complete examination of the case.

However, two thirds of the ruling deals with the facts described in the indictment and the evidence of the case. Thus, the ruling is indeed based on the facts. The Court’s law-application is not arbitrary and selective, but based on the Russian Constitution and the federal law on State Secrets and not on the secret and retroactive legislation that the prosecutor had based his case on. And the Court carried out a thorough and objective evaluation of the case, questioning a number of witnesses and experts, and evaluating the legal foundation of the charges, the open sources of the Bellona report as well as the materials of the case files. When being asked by the Court, the prosecutor actually rejected to summon more witnesses or experts, because he considered this to be unnecessary.

Thus, the acquittal of Aleksandr Nikitin is built on solid rock, and each and all of the points of the prosecutor’s appeal are utterly groundless.

When handling the appeal case, the Supreme Court 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 terminated.
  • It may approve the appeal, which will mean that the City Court has to evaluate the case for the third time, but now presided over 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 alternatives is acceptable. The Supreme Court has no other lawful alternative than to confirm the legal opinion that is expressed in the City Court’s verdict: That the Constitution – and not various secret military decrees – is the supreme legislation of the Russian Federation. If the Supreme Court should approve the appeal or return the case to additional investigation, such a decision will clearly not have been taken on the basis of the law.