The Inevitabilty of Navalny's Trial: Only 1 Percent of Verdicts Passed in Russia Are Not Guilty

On May 22nd, The Moscow Times reported on the inevitability of a guilty verdict for Alexei Navalny, an opposition leader who is facing a sentencing for fraud. This is because only 1 percent of verdicts passed in Russia are not guilty, according to official statistics.

Navalny's conviction could put him in jail for ten years and would cause him to be ineligible to run for office, a recently announced ambition of his.

According to The Moscow Times,

The issue of such a large number of guilty verdicts has not gone unnoticed by the country's leaders, who seem to be aware that the integrity of Russia's justice system is one of the main concerns of foreign investors.

During his visit to the 2013 World Economic Forum in Davos, a meeting attended by many politicians and foreign investors, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev addressed the issue of Russia's high rate of guilty verdicts, calling it an "issue of political and legal consciousness."

As one explanation for judges' frequent guilty rulings, Medevedev said "judges are almost ashamed of not-guilty verdicts, as it calls the work of investigative agencies into question," Swiss newspaper Neue ZЯrcher Zeitung reported in January.

Cooperation that is too close between law enforcement authorities and courts has been confirmed by observers, with prosecutors and investigators no longer making a secret of it.

At the meeting with judge Yegorova, Sergei Kudneyev, a chief Moscow prosecutor, said prosecutors had started to become more involved in judicial practice, forming "judicial bodies" in courts.

As an example, he cited hearings in the high-profile Bolotnaya case, in which nearly 30 people have been charged with or convicted of participating in riots on Bolotnaya Ploshchad last May at a protest rally on the eve of Putin's inauguration.

"They are not even prosecutors, but more like court officials, and it's no secret that when there are vacancies in courts they are filled with prosecutors," Kudneyev said. "We have a common mentality," he added.

Anatoly Yakunin, a top Interior Ministry official, said at the same meeting that he aimed to continue cooperation with courts, emulating his predecessor and current Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev.

"This love will continue. We can't exist without one another — that is a fact," he said, adding that law enforcement officials often needed consultations in courts.

The former Interior Ministry official said the Investigative Committee makes frequent phone calls to Moscow courts to ask judges what is missing in a given case to secure a guilty verdict.

Veteran trial lawyer and human rights activist Valery Borshchyov said investigators have a direct influence on courts in Russia. "An investigator is the dominant person in court. The judge accepts the detention measures suggested by investigators; he protects him from the wrong questions and witnesses. The investigator is the main person encroaching on justice [in courts]," he said.

Even former judge Kolokolov acknowledged that the function of courts had become limited to imposing penalties...

But more often, Kolokolov said, there is simply psychological pressure on judges. "Imagine you're a judge in a district court and you receive a criminal case that says it was investigated personally by Investigative Committee head Alexander Bastrykin, and the charges were approved by Prosecutor General Yury Chaika. Is it possible that this paper wouldn't influence the judge's decision? It's purely a psychological influence; no one actually forces a judge to violate the law and pronounce a guilty verdict."

Read the rest of the article here.