#6 - JRL 2009-154 - JRL Home
Moscow Times
August 20, 2009
Medvedev Proposes Ending Jury Trials for More Crimes

President Dmitry Medvedev on Wednesday proposed further restrictions on jury trials and suggested changing jurisdiction rules for extremism and terrorism trials.

Medvedev, speaking at a Security Council meeting in Stavropol, said suspects accused of committing crimes as part of a criminal group should not be allowed to be tried by jury in court.

“Jury trails fail for a variety of reasons. We need to think about teams of professional judges considering these kinds of charges,” Medvedev said, Interfax reported.

Last December, Medvedev signed a controversial law barring suspected terrorists from being tried by jury. The widely criticized initiative was pushed through the State Duma by United Russia, whose leaders argued that jury trials in the North Caucasus often resulted in the release of terrorists.

Human rights activists and legal experts said the change compromised the entire premise of jury trials and offered protection to police officers who used brutal methods to extract confessions from suspected terrorists in the North Caucasus.

Genri Reznik, one of the country’s most prominent defense lawyers, and Moscow Helsinki Group head Lyudmila Alexeyeva criticized Medvedev’s proposal as a new attempt to undercut jury trials, arguing that it would further diminish suspects’ rights in court.

Alexeyeva, however, said that moving terrorism trials from the clannish North Caucasus republics to other Russian regions might be a good idea.

Medvedev said at the meeting that the law should be changed to allow suspected extremists and terrorists to be tried outside their native regions so that “bandits and corrupt people can’t put pressure on the courts.”

“If we cannot properly hold them accountable here, we will do it in another place ­ in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kamchatka,” he said.

The current Criminal Procedure Code, however, already allows trials to be moved to other jurisdictions under a range of legal pretexts.

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