Russian Supreme Court to Determine Fate of Persecuted Environmentalist


Environmentalists Suffer Crackdown under New Russian President
Russian Supreme Court to Determine Fate of Persecuted Environmentalist

(WASHINGTON, DC) — In a Moscow hearing on Monday, prosecutors will ask the Russian Supreme Court to dismiss the December 29, 1999 acquittal of environmental activist Alexsandr Nikitin as a prelude to yet another new hearing on the case. The Sierra Club and Amnesty International are alarmed by the prosecutors’ actions and believe this move violates the rule of law and the Russian Constitution.

The case has tarnished newly elected president Vladimir Putin and his claims
that the country supports freedom of expression. In 1996, the Putin-led
Federal Security Service (former KGB) had charged Mr. Nikitin with “acts of
treason” for revealing nuclear safety hazards aboard aging Russian nuclear
submarines. The Sierra Club and Amnesty International maintain the innocence
of Alexsandr Nikitin and call on the Russian authorities to uphold the
legality of the acquittal and curtail harassment of environmental activists.

“The espionage charges brought against Mr. Nikitin violated international
human rights standards and Russia’s own constitution,” said Dr. William F.
Schulz, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA. “This renewed
attempt to convict Mr. Nikitin reflects the deteriorating human rights
situation in Russia under President Putin.”

Amnesty International and the Sierra Club fear the prosecutor’s appeal of
Nikitin’s acquittal marks a continuation of harassment of environmental
activists by the Russian government under President Putin. When he was head
of the FSB, Putin made a number of prejudicial comments about the case,
including the statement that “Nikitin is guilty.” In July, the newspaper
Komsomolskaya Pravda quoted Putin as saying that “foreign secret services use
not only diplomatic cover, but very actively use all sorts of ecological …

“Putin’s hostility toward those who would expose the environmental pollution
caused by Russia’s military industrial complex should not only concern those
who want to avoid future Chernobyl-style nuclear accidents and other massive
environmental catastrophes, it should concern anyone who values the future of
a democratic Russia,” said Carl Pope, Executive Director of Sierra Club.

Nikitin, a scientist and former Russian naval captain, was arrested in 1996
after documenting the risk of radioactive contamination from nuclear
submarines in Russia’s Northern Fleet for the Bellona Foundation, a Norwegian
environmental group. Charged by the Federal Security Service with disclosing
state secrets under Article 64 of the Russian Criminal Code, Nikitin has been
subjected to four years of investigations and harassment, two trials and
eight successive indictments. The St. Petersburg Court found Nikitin not
guilty in December of 1999 due to “the absence of crime.”

Aleksandr Nikitin was declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty
International in 1996, the first in post-Soviet Russia. In 1997 Nikitin was
awarded the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize for environmental

Sierra Club/Amnesty