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Excerpts from the JRL E-Mail Community :: Founded and Edited by David Johnson

Persecution beyond the grave

One of the bizarre anomalies of the Russian legal system is the possibility to prosecute, charge and sentence people who are already dead.

First we had the grotesque spectacle of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky being investigated for tax fraud 18 months after his death.

Now have an even more obscene case.

Olga Alexandrina, a 36-year-old pediatrician who died with her mother, also a doctor, last year when the small Citroen they were traveling in on Moscow's Leninsky Prospekt was in a head-on collision with a chauffer-driven Mercedes carrying Lukoil vice-president Anatoly Barkov. (Some witnesses said that Barkov's Mercedes swerved into oncoming traffic in an attempt to overtake, but Barkov's driver, Vladimir Kartayev, denied this.)

The fatal crash that killed the two doctors caused a massive uproar, with campaigners calling for tougher controls on the use of blue flashing lights (migalkas) by cars carrying top officials and VIPs.

Last month, the Interior Ministry reopened the case and prosecutors have now ruled that Alexandrina, the driver of the Citroen, is to be charged posthumously ­ with causing her own death. Nonsensically, the charge carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

Kartayev was cleared by a court last year ­ but according to Russia's Constitutional Court, the case cannot be closed until Alexandrina's relatives agree to drop any complaint.

The patent absurdity of the situation is compounded by the torment that Alexandrina's family is now being forced to go through, and the pressing of charges against Alexandrina appears to be a non-too-subtle way of getting them to drop the case.

A wide variety of critics of Russia's judicial system, from President Dmitry Medvedev to opposition anti-corruption campaigners such as Alexei Navalny, have long argued that it is mired in legal nihilism.

Now the Alexandrina case, like Magnitsky's, is turning that system into a sick joke.

If Medvedev's long-stalled legal reforms are to mean anything, they must start by defending the rights of the ordinary citizen equally with those of the rich and powerful.

And that includes the right not only to justice for the living, but the right for the dead to rest in peace.

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Russia, Law, Corruption, Police, Crime - Russia, Assassinations, Beatings, Prison Deaths - Russian News - Russia - Johnson's Russia List

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