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25.12.2007

How “Basmanny Justice” defeated the Basmanny Court

   

On Tuesday 25 December the Russian Federation Supreme Court overturned the ruling which had declared it unlawful to carry out investigative proceedings on a second criminal case against Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev in Chita.  The Supreme Court thus allowed yet another appeal from the Prosecutor General.

It was the fifth attempt by the Prosecutor General to ensure that the criminal investigation was held in Chita many hundreds of kilometres away from Moscow. 

Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev were suddenly moved to Chita around this time a year ago, in order, as representatives of the Prosecutor General stated, to carry out certain measures as part of a second criminal investigation.

This surprise move led to speculation even then that it was planned not just to hold the preliminary investigation, but the actual trial in Chita.

Then came the surprise: the judgment  from Moscow’s Basmanny Court  which has become notorious for issuing “required rulings”.  On 20 March this year the Court declared it unlawful to hold the pre-trial investigation into the new criminal charges in Chita. The court then accepted the argument of the men’s lawyers that the investigation had to be carried out in Moscow where the activities the men are charged with allegedly took place. The court ruling stated that transferring the criminal investigation to Chita was a violation of the constitutional right to defence (Chita is very far away, and access for lawyers, etc is limited).  This ruling was later upheld by the Moscow City Court, which thus rejected a cassation appeal by the Prosecutor General.

The latter was not deterred, despite the fact that with the second ruling the judgment had come into force and the men should have been brought to Moscow.

However the Prosecutor General simply refused to comply with the ruling. The senior investigator S. Karimov stated that they regarded both rulings unfounded and saw no need to enforce them.

The Prosecutor General also lodged a “nadzornoye predstavlenye” [a Prosecutor’s appeal over a ruling which has already come into force].  This was – incredibly – also unsuccessful, with two rulings from the Moscow City Court upholding the March ruling. 

It was only through the Supreme Court that the Prosecutor General succeeded in getting “nadzornoye” proceedings initiated with the case being sent to the Presidium of the Moscow City Court for examination on merits.

Yet once again this body on 13 September rejected the Prosecutor General’s demand. 

And the Prosecutor General went back again to the Supreme Court. And today finally succeeded – the Supreme Court overturned the previous rulings of the Basmanny and Moscow City Courts and sent the case back for examination by a new panel of judges.

Khodorkovsky and Lebedev’s lawyers have already announced their intention to lodge an appeal against this verdict in the European Court of Human Rights.

It doubtless does not need to be spelt out why there was such determination to hold the investigation into “new charges” against the two men hundreds of kilometres away from Moscow and the world press. 

Based on material from www.hro.org

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