The other day I was reading an interesting article over The Power Vertical, which was published last week, about an open letter signed by the eminently respected former Moscow City Court judge Sergei Pashin to President Dmitry Medvedev urging him to reject the resolution passing through the Duma to eliminate jury trials for terrorism cases (a subject we have reported on also). The Power Vertical article referred to an interview given by Pashin to Novye izvestia which we offer in full exclusive translation below, which brings to light all the problems of corruption and opportunism of the judicial process by members of the FSB and Kremlin – which is essentially the cornerstone of everything that has gone wrong in the case of Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
16 December 2008
Merited jurist of the RF, judge (ret.) Sergey Pashin:
«The article about espionage – rubber»
Yesterday a group of representatives of the intelligentsia, jurists and human rights advocates directed an open letter to the president with a request to lay a veto on the draft law adopted by the State Duma that limits the activity of jurors. We will remind that they now will not be able to decide the fate of persons accused of terrorism, the taking of hostages, mass disorders, as well as of treason and espionage. Practically concurrently the government introduced in the State Duma a new draft law, which significantly expands the content of the understanding «state treason». This initiative likewise evoked the protest of human rights advocates. One of the authors of the letter to the president merited jurist of the RF Sergey PASHIN recounted to«NI» what such laws can lead to.
How much will the curtailment of the powers of jury courts influence the objectivity and fairness of our Themis?
We lived with the jury court for 15 years. And then, when so muchtime had passed after its introduction, they started to cut back itspowers. Something similar, by the way, took place in tsarist Russia,when they started to take cases away from jurors after the acquittal ofVera Zasulich. (Ms. Zasuich had shot at the Petersburgian cityadministrator Trepov. – «NI») But a repeating of this path – of course,is a disgrace. We have to have in mind, after all, that Alexander III,when he introduced special forms of judicial proceedings, was relyingon the statute «On intensified protection», where what was being spokenof was the right of the political police in 10 gubernias of Russia toact according to the situation, not subject to the administration andthe courts. But we want to introduce restrictions in regions whereneither martial law, nor special regulation, nor a state of emergencyhas been declared. If a jury court impedes in some way, then you needto declare a state of emergency and then examine cases in another order
How justified are the arguments that jurors in certain southern regions of the country too frequently acquit terrorists?
I have been in many southern regions – both in Daghestan, and inIngushetia. And to assert that jury courts there are lying idle, I cannot. In Daghestan in two and a half years were examined 140 cases withthe participation of a loan [sic] of jurors. With respect to half orthem were issued guilty verdicts, so, in my opinion, the system worksnormally. A court is needed not in order to simplify the work of theFSB, but for a pure check of the arguments of the FSB. If they can notconvince the jurors, then they’re worthless.
That is the reason for the ineffectiveness lies in the fact that the prosecution can not gather enough evidence?
Yes, it can not prove. More than that, potential jurors know thatthis evidence quite often is gathered with the help of torture,falsification, operative-search [sic – probably “criminal investigation”]activity instead of procedural. But in court the procurator needs tobring the jurors over to his side. Difficulties, of course, there are,but they can all be overcome. A jury court – is a real menace for thosewho now falsify cases. Jurors are very sensitive to untruth. But if youuntie the hands for the law-enforcement organs, then they will getcompletely out of hand. This is absolutely for sure. By the way, overthe year 2007, jurors did not examine a single case of mass disorders.It is asked, so what are the grounds for accusing them that they willbadly examine these cases?
And why didn’t they examine?
There were no cases and there were no defendants who wanted for them to be examined by jury courts.
The adopted limitations are somehow associated with the financial crisis?
I consider that this is a step into the future, so that the protestenergy of the population would be suppressed in advance, so that peoplewould not resolve questions with the aid of mass disorders.
How much is the limitation of the competence of a jury courtassociated with the draft law introduced last week by the government,expanding the content of the articles of the CC on espionage?
The connection is thoroughly direct. The article about espionage -rubber, it is very unsuccessfully juridically formulated, under thisnorm you can bring very much, which even in the Soviet time was notconsidered espionage. In such a manner, procedural means for thecriminal prosecution of people may be prepared.
What kind of cases could fall under treason and espionage in connection with the new amendments?
Not only actions threatening the external security of the state willbe able to be considered espionage, but also those directed against theinternal security of the state, including its constitutional system aswell. This will allow squeezing just about anything at all under thegravamen of treason.
In the amendments the formulation «hostile activity» is being changed to «acts». In what is the distinction?
Activity – this is a system of behaviors and actions, while an act -is a single-moment behaviour or even inaction. Under the Soviet powernot denouncing, for example, was considered treason. When an accuseddid not report about the criminal activity of other persons. That’sprecisely how Nikolai Gumilev, who himself had not done anythingagainst the Soviet power, was executed by firing squad [in 1921, in one of the CheKa’s first completely fabricated cases–Ed.]. But then he didn’t denounce his comrades.
How quickly can the law be adopted?
Now they are adopted very quickly. With the jury court the deputies were able to finish in two weeks.