After five years of legal foot-dragging, the Presidium of the Russian Supreme Court today put the final end to a case that will be written in post Soviet history records. This is the first time in the history of the Russian Security Police, the successor of the KGB, that a person charged with high treason has been fully acquitted. The Nikitin case is over for good. The verdict announced today by the Supreme Court Presidium is final and can not be appealed.
An hour of history-making
The proceedings started Wednesday at 10:00 Moscow time. The small room in the Supreme Court was cramped with reporters and Western diplomats. The hearing was open to the public. 13 judges entering the room announced the opening of the session.
One of the judges stood up and read aloud the main points in the appeal from the Prosecutor General’s Office.
The Prosecutor General’s Office filed its appeal in May this year, demanding dismissal of the acquitting verdict reached in the Nikitin case first by the City Court in St. Petersburg on December 29, 1999, and upheld by the Russian Supreme Court on April 17, 2000. The prosecution said in the appeal that the violations of Nikitin’s rights during the process had to be remedied, thus the case had to be sent to renewed investigation.Victory value increased
"The fact that the acquittal verdict was upheld by the highest court authority in Russia increases its value greatly," Schmidt said to Bellona Web. "The judges in Russia have been supported by this verdict. They will act more independently now," Schmidt added.
Schmidt believes that the reason for the Prosecutor General’s Office to make that final appeal was an attempt to take the case back and wrap it up quietly, thus diminishing the effect of the verdict, which was too harmful for the prosecution authorities. But the result reached was the opposite. The Nikitin case must now be considered a precedent.
Case still to enter Human Rights Court
The Supreme Court’s final resolution notwithstanding, the Human Rights Court in Strasbourg will start its evaluation of the case in the end of 2000. According to Bellona’s legal advisor, Jon Gauslaa, the court is to establish why the case, having no legal ground at all, was allowed to last for five long years without being determined. The involved Russian authorities will have to explain their actions. Should the verdict in Strasbourg be in Nikitin’s favour, a just compensation will be paid to the former accused.
Back to nature
Aleksandr Nikitin met today’s verdict with heartfelt relief. "Now I can focus on environmental work. The five year ordeal is finally over," he told Bellona Web.
"The victory is final. The clean-up work in the Russian Northern Fleet, which has been severely hampered by this process should now move on at a much faster pace," said Frederic Hauge, president of the Bellona Foundation. "This task seems almost easy, in comparison to fighting down the successor to the KGB. I think we will cope with it," added Hauge.