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9 E. Eur. Const. Rev. 92 (2000)
The Nikitin Case through the Eyes of the Acquitting Judge

handle is hein.journals/eeurcr9 and id is 322 raw text is: The Nikitin Case Through the Eyes of the Acquitting Judge
Interview by Viktor Tereshkin for the EECR

soul-wrenching marathon that stretched out
over five long years, the Alexander Nikitin
trial came to an end in the Russian Supreme
Court on September 13, 2000. The case represents the
first acquittal since October 1917 of a person who,
accused of treason and betraying state secrets, had been
arrested by the security services and thrown in jail.
This cause cdl&bre will doubtless inspire books and
films. Any such dramatization will have to assign a
pivotal role to Saint Petersburg city-court judge Sergei
Golets, who, on December 29, 1999, found the pris-
oner of conscience Nikitin innocent.
In the courtroom, from a distance, he looked
much older. But, up close, he turns out to be good-
looking and young-only 41. He has worked as a
jurist for 20 years, 5 of them as a procuratorial investi-
gator. Having served in the military, he has been a
judge for 15 years and was a member of the Party.
EECR: You have a great deal of experience as a
judge. How does the Nikitin case compare with others
over which you have presided?
Judge Golets: It was my most difficult case, in
terms of its character and the need to delve into
specialist literature. Before reaching a decision, the lay
assessors and I read about 1,500 normative acts, some
classified, others not. Luckily, the court administration
relieved us of other work so we were able to spend a
month and a half preparing for the case. Usually,
Russian judges do not have so much time. I would like
to note that both of my lay assessors are extraordinarily
responsible and qualified people. One is a submarine

captain of the first rank in the reserves; the other spent
many years building and testing equipment on nuclear
submarines. This was a coincidence-they are my only
lay assessors. But neither had any trouble following the
trial and the evidence.
The decision we took on December 29 was
unique, one of a kind. It was the first case in which I
had to analyze and apply constitutional norms. I'd also
like to note that, because of supporting legislation
passed by the Duma, which echoes constitutional
language, a judge can now apply both national and
international norms. Russia has taken upon itself the
obligation, when national laws fall short of human-
rights norms, to uphold the norms of international
law, specifically those of the European Convention on
Human Rights. This is exactly what we had to do in
this case, and it caused the procurator to protest. The
procuracy objected that our reasoning analyzed and
applied constitutional norms.
The most important mistake made by the inves-
tigators, in my opinion, was that they stubbornly
ignored the defense's assertions that one must pay
attention not merely to questions of fact but also to
questions of law. The defense lawyers argued that it
was imperative to examine carefully the legal basis of
the charges and not to stop at the opinions of experts
from the general staff of the Ministry of Defense-
who, after all, are not lawyers. But the prosecution did
not want to listen. Otherwise, the case might never
have gone to trial and could have been settled by a
judicial ruling on the law, perhaps by appeal to the
Constitutional Court.

92                                                                         EAST EUROPEAN CONSTITUTIONAL REVIEW

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