The Full Presidium of the Russian Supreme Court was in session at 9:45 Moscow time, Wednesday. 11 judges went into the room packed with reporters. One of the judges climbed the podium to open the proceedings. After inquire was made whether there were any comments from the Presidium, the First Deputy Chairman of the Supreme Court, Vladimir Radchenko, stood up and said that he had been on holiday and did not have enough time to prepare himself for the hearing. The request for postponement met no objections from the Chairman. A new date was announced immediately September 13.
Witch hunter aware of planned postponement
Right after the session was over, Nikitins defence team was musing over the reasons for assembling the whole Presidium if it had been decided beforehand to postpone the hearing? A possible answer evolved shortly afterwards. On Monday this week, rumours leaked from Victor Cherkesovs office that the hearing of the Nikitin case was to be postponed. Victor Cherkesov was the head of the St. Peterburg branch of the Russian Security Police, or FSB, when the Nikitin case was started and is believed to have initiated the whole process. Cherkesov started his carrier in Department 5 of the KGB, being responsible for hunting down Soviet dissidents. Today, Cherkesov, who is on friendly terms with President Vladimir Putin, is the Governor of Northwest region of Russia.
Nikitins defender Yury Schmidt says that Cherkesov was extremely upset when the St. Petersburg City Court acquitted Nikitin of all charges in December 1999, and then the Russian Supreme Court upheld the acquittal in April 2000. The fact that Cherkesovs office was aware of the planned postponement shows his interest into the case and possible exertion of pressure on the Supreme Court judges.
Nikitins defenders believe that moving the session date to September 13, would give Cherkesov and the FSB more time to ensure that the decision taken is in their favour. The Prosecutor General Office is just a tool to use.
Judges become a part of the violations
The Supreme Court judges are now taking part in violating Nikitins rights, Jon Gauslaa, legal adviser of Bellona, said after the short session was over. The case is not complicated to evaluate. There is no case. Nikitin was acquitted of all charges and sending his case back to FSB investigators in order to remedy his rights would have nothing to do with the civilised principles of law, Gauslaa added.
Aleksandr Nikitin before he entered the courtroom said he hoped that common sense would take over. We cannot imagine an absurd situation when the acquittal verdict is reversed, Nikitin stated. The outcome of the session was close to absurd.
Last year, Nikitin filed complaint to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. The Prosecutor Generals appeal is yet another move to reinforce the complaint and if the Presidium of the Supreme Court accepts the appeal or drags on with postponements, the only option for Nikitin would be to remedy his rights in Strasbourg.