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Goodbye, Juries

medved010109.jpgThe Associated Press has announced that President Dmitry Medvedev has signed into law a new bill which will restrict jury trials for cases involving terrorism and treason.  Thanks to the newly expanded definition of treason, this could involve a substantial amount of political cases against the opposition.

On just Dec. 2, Medvedev gave a speech calling for greater transparency in the legal system:  “The Strasbourg court, and any international court, with all due respect, cannot and must not take the place of the Russian court system,” he said. “The justice system must be effective enough to bring appeals to international courts to a minimum.”

Ensuring the option of jury trials before fair and impartial courts would logically support this stated goal.  As former Justice Sergey Pashin has recently written, officials within the Russian government have a duty not to allow the courts to become a tool of the FSB.

There appears to be a gulf between certain legislative bills bearing Putin’s signature (term extension, juries) and Medvedev’s own (the anti-corruption package) – at times even mutually contradictory.  As the economic difficulties continue into 2009, it is suspected that this gulf will become more harder to sustain.