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Duma deputy: Dependence of Russian judges became obvious in Khodorkovsky trial

Mikhail KhodorkovskyMOSCOW. Feb 15 (Interfax) - The Monday revelations by Natalya Vasilyeva, a press attache of Moscow's Khamovhichesky Court and personal aide to Justice Viktor Danilkin, who recently tried former Yukos head Mikhail Khodorkovsky and former Menatep head Platon Lebedev, prove the absence of an independent judicial system in Russia, said Gennady Gudkov, a deputy head of the State Duma security committee.

"This scandal has dealt another serious blow to Russia's image in the world, because the firm conviction of many that there is no independent judicial system in our country has now turned into proven knowledge. A judicial reform of which the president has said repeatedly has failed to produce results, and there are still no independent courts here," Gudkov told Interfax on Tuesday.

"The Russian judicial system has not been disgraced more since Soviet Prosecutor Vyshinsky's political expediency principle was uncovered," he said.

"The top brass of the Russian judicial system is formed by the executive branch and in fact has unlimited powers regarding the judges' work. A judge is fully dependent on his superior, and this principle has become unseemly glaring in the last trial of Khodorkovsky and Lebedev," Gudkov said.

Gudkov pointed out that, based on Vasilyeva's account, not only did Justice Danilkin "read the text of the sentence written by somebody else, but he had also been called on the carpet like some petty clerk, although a judge is an independent procedural figure, whom nobody can tell what to do."

"But in this country, a judge is a hostage to a qualification board, which often pleases any whims of a court chairman. Two warnings are enough to strip a judge of their status. A qualification board is often turned into a tool for eliminating unwanted judges," he said.

Russia should take immediate measures to protect the judicial system "from the lawlessness of bureaucrats from the executive branch," he said.

The Khodorkovsky case should become "the last incentive for starting a real judicial reform, which needs to be planned carefully and implemented very quickly but qualitatively," he said.

Vasilyeva said in an interview published in the February 14 issue of www.gazeta.ru that Justice Danilkin had been under constant pressure from the Moscow City Court during Khodorkovsky's and Lebedev's trial and that the ruling was actually written by somebody else and imposed on him.

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