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Grigory Pasko: Danilkin, A Fall Guy for the Khodorkovsky Verdict?

mbk08192010.jpgThe court, having heard the opinion of the participants in the process, considers that the motion of the state prosecutor Lakhtin on extending the term of detention of the defendants Khodorkovsky and Lebedev is grounded and subject to satisfaction,” — declared Judge Viktor Danilkin.

Well, who would have doubted… Pity, of course, the nerves of the detainees: they still hold out hope each and every time the term of their detentions nears the expiration date. I know from my own experience that it is hard not to look forward to such dim possibilities.

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In the Khamovnichesky Court at the trial in the so-called YUKOS Case, prosecutor Valery Lakhtin had already hinted that final submissions to extend the detention order were near at hand. He also added that the defendants and the lawyers are consciously dragging out the process. One can understand Lakhtin and the procuratorial company: over a year and a half of the second trial of Khodorkovsky and Lebedev he has successfully demonstrated once and for all the innocence of the persons sitting in the glass aquarium.

Prosecution witnesses did not provide the court with any even remotely serious evidence of the defendants’ guilt. On the contrary, the witnesses invited by the defence, not large in number, convincingly testified that there was no theft of oil in the YUKOS company, nor could there have been – and all the more so, of ALL of the oil produced.

Observers at the trial no doubt noted the elevated degree of nervousness in the procuratorial fraternity. It is obvious that they are being pushed to hurry up and bring to a close the trial that is dragging on for an indecently long time. Properly, the reason it is dragging out for so long is because the party of the prosecution was unable, and is completely unable, to find anything at all weighty that would compel judge Danilkin to breathe a sigh of relief and compose a guilty verdict that could leave his career intact.

Without minimally passable evidence, such a verdict in a political case just doesn’t happen. A clumsily composed verdict without grounds – this is a disgrace not only for Danilkin, but for the entire system of Russian justice as a whole. (It’s image couldn’t get much worse even without this). It is understandable that it is not judge Danilkin who is going to be adopting the final decision, but he could turn out to be the fall guy.

Not procurator Lakhtin, not his mentor advisor to the Procurator-General Karimov, and certainly – not Sechin and Putin with Medvedev.

Once upon at time at the dawn of the second trial there were those who wrote and said: judge Danilkin could change the course of history in the country; it is enough for him to merely act in accordance with the law and put a stop to the mockery of a trial, having released Khodorkovsky and Lebedev. I advised one of the people saying this to take a more attentive look at Danilkin and say just where he saw an ability for such decisions in this person?

Particularly advanced observers say that the persons in power who have contrived the second trial themselves do not know how to get out of it. I doubt this. What is there not to know? What is so special here? It is not the first time that we are observing such trials. And this trial, like an old creaking cart, is crawling through the ruts of the dirt track on wheels sunk down to the axles in mud. Sooner or later the cart will get someplace. At the very least, it will get stuck. Well, then they’ll drag it out somehow. As to the reputation of the cart, and certainly of the road, this is something nobody in our country has thought about for a long time already. «The Russians have their own pride»… Or stupidity coupled with impenetrability. It looks like the guilty verdict is going to be as clumsy, groundless and far from jurisprudence as the current decision on extending the term of detention to 17 November.

Unfortunately, I too am inclined to deem that the verdict with respect to the second trial, just like the one with respect to the first, will be guilty. If they’re going to suggest anything to Danilkin, it will be the term. I do not think that it will be very big. (Although for someone sitting in a cage any term – is big!)

And here’s what I’m thinking about: in a civilized country a guilty verdict in such a high-profile and lengthy trial would certainly become the start of mass spontaneous rallies and protests. Moreover with there would be calls for resignation of those responsible in the leadership. In theory, the reaction should be widespread, because the trial in the «YUKOS case» has long ago ceased to be a trial concerning just a few individuals: it concerns all of the citizens of Russia, because it really shows in what a macabre state our judicial system is found. The trial shows that this monster is capable of breaking the fates of anybody, each and every one of us, who gets caught in its way.

The mayhem has got to be stopped by the whole world.

Drawing of judge Danilkin from a Parisian exhibition dedicated to the trial in the Khamovnichesky court