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    The Supreme Court Confirmed Life Sentence for Former YUKOS Employee Alexey Pichugin | 8 Nov 2017

    Novaja gazetaThe Presidium of the Supreme Court confirmed the sentence to Alexey Pichugin, a former YUKOS employee, who was convicted in 2007 of organizing several murders and sentenced to life imprisonment. The court hearing passed quickly and formally.

    On November 8, a retrial of the Pichugin case was appointed due to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) judgment.

    The Strasbourg Court decision on the Pichugin case was rendered on June 6, 2017. It concerned Alexey Pichugins second criminal case, of which he was accused, in particular, of organizing the murder of Nefteyugansk mayor Vladimir Petukhov and was eventually sentenced to life imprisonment.

    The ECHR found that during the proceedings, the Moscow City Court of the Russian Federation had violated two aspects of the right to a fair trial (Article 6 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms) of a former YUKOS employee.

    First, the principle of the presumption of innocence was not observed. And Vladimir Kolesnikov, the Deputy Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation at that time (2005), and Yury Burtovoi, head of the investigation team in the Pichugin case, made statements on the ORT and NTV television channels affirming Aleksey Pichugins guilt before the legal proceedings began. Because of that, Alexey Pichugin was forced to reject the jury trial.

    Secondly, the Moscow City Court refused to take into account the opinion of the handwriting expert Volodina, which could testify to the innocence of the defendant.

    According to the CPC of the Russian Federation, the established by the European Court violation of the European Convention provisions perpetrated by the Russian court while examining the criminal case is the basis for the resumption of proceedings in this case because of new developments. Therefore, the Chairman of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation Vyacheslav Lebedev made a corresponding submission to the Presidium of the Supreme Court.

    A representative of the Prosecutor Generals Office declared at the Supreme Court hearing on November 8 that in the second trial, there were «created all the conditions for competition», «equality of parties», and «respect for rights» for Pichugin and his defense.

    «The Moscow City Court considered the case in compliance with the law…» the prosecutor said. «The courts conclusions are motivated. The objectivity and impartiality of the judges cannot be questioned by the fact that the officials reported on the completion of investigation on television (not only reported but also announced Pichugins guilted.).»

    As a result, the Deputy Prosecutor General asked to resume the proceedings in order to keep the verdict in force. In other words, the ECHR decision will be formally fulfilled: the case is reviewed but upheld again.

    Pichugins defense, in turn, asked to terminate criminal proceedings and release him.

    «The European Court did find the violation of Article 6 of the European Convention in respect of non-compliance with the principle of the presumption of innocence and equality of parties. The speech of Mr. Kolesnikov and Mr. Burtovoi had influenced the decision of the court,» noted attorney Ksenia Kostromina. «It would be appropriate to repeal and terminate the proceedings, and release my client.»

    According to the lawyer, it makes no sense to conduct the trial anew, as from 15 to 20 years have passed since the events incriminated to Pichugin, and no witnesses can be found.

    Kostromina also recalled that on October 23, 2012, the ECHR ruled on Pichugins first case, which was closed to the public and press. Strasbourg recommended that the Russian authorities send the case for a retrial or resume the proceedings on it.

    However, the Supreme Court did not execute the ECHR decision. «In this connection, we were compelled to apply to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe (the body that controls the implementation of the ECHR decisionsed.). The Committee of Ministers is aware of non-execution and has taken it under its control. I wouldnt want to see the same situation with the second Strasbourg ruling,» Kostromina concluded.

    However, on a 20-minute consultation, the Supreme Court judges came out with a short decision to formally resume the case in order to keep the verdict in force.

    Aleksei Pichugin himself participated in the hearing neither personally, nor through video communication.

    Vera Chelishcheva, Novaya Gazeta

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  • Trial of vengeance

  • Journalist Valeriy Shiryaev on the first case of Aleksey Pichugin in his book «Trial of vengeance. The first victim of the YUKOS case»