WASHINGTON – United States Helsinki Commission Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ) responded today to the most recent development in the case of Alexandr Nikitin, a former Russian Navy Captain and environmental activist whose legal ordeal has been prolonged indefinitely. “We respect and observe the principle of an independent judiciary and impartial operation of the judicial system, as stipulated by the Copenhagen Document of the OSCE,” Chairman Smith said. “The Russian Supreme Court has the right to set its schedule. However, it remains true that justice delayed is justice denied.”
“The prosecution and the defense have had their day in court. We are disappointed that Mr. Nikitin’s wait for justice continues, and we urge a final, just and timely resolution of this case,” Chairman Smith added. Nikitin had been accused of obtaining and divulging “state secrets” in connection with his work with the Norwegian environmental organization “Bellona” in exposing harmful nuclear waste disposal practices by the Russian Navy in the White Sea region. Arrested in February 1996, he was held in pre-trial detention for ten months, and then released under the condition that he not leave St. Petersburg. In 1998, after several attempts by the St. Petersburg Procuracy and the Russian security services to produce a viable indictment, Nikitin’s first trial ended inconclusively, with the judge sending the case back for further investigation. He was finally acquitted in December 1999, a decision upheld by the Russian Supreme Court panel in April 2000. Alexandr Nikitin had been cleared of espionage charges by a three-judge panel of the Russian Supreme Court after four years of investigation and two trials. But such good news was short lived when prosecutors on July 19, 2000 filed an appeal to take the case to the full Supreme Court, one day before Mr. Nikitin testified at a Helsinki Commission briefing.