View Full Version : Russian Journo bravery in criticising the legal system

9th Apr 2004, 03:38
I think that Leonid Zlotin of the Gazeta.Ru shows significant bravery to be outspoken as he is in this (http://www.mosnews.com/commentary/2004/04/08/zlotin.shtml) editorial (also quoted below). The risks are clear, particularly reading the story, yet he is prepared to make his critical statements. Hats off to a brave man. Substituting knowledge for faith should not move from the spiritual sphere to that of law enforcement and the judiciary.

Proceeding from the old adage “he that increaseth knowledge, increaseth sorrow", one has to admit that at present every effort is being made to maintain a state of blissful ignorance in society.

This was particularly evident of Tuesday when a court of jury found the scientist Igor Sutyagin guilty of espionage. A day later the Moscow City Court upheld the verdict and sentenced him to 15 years in prison.

Given the veil of secrecy thrown over the trial by the authorities, the only available information on the case was provided by the defense team who claimed that all the data Sutyagin had used in his research was published in open sources. Whether that is true or not, we will never know.

At the same time, it is not known what exactly the prosecutors accused Sutyagin of when they charged him with espionage, which they seem to believe is a sufficient explanation in itself.

Without doubting the right of the jury to pass a verdict which they consider fair, one cannot but note that virtually nothing is known about them either; not their names, their professions, social status, age, or even how they were selected for the job.

Just as nothing is known about the final questions posed to the jury, on the basis of which they reached their verdict, although any psychologist knows that the answer largely depends on the wording of the question.

Such information can scarcely be classified as secret. As a result, the public, its attention aroused by the trial, is supposed to take for granted the position of the prosecutors and the jury who upheld that position.

Today ensuring full public trust in the prosecutors demands a barely attainable level of blissful ignorance, and without knowing anything about the jury, the verdict passed by them is as hard to accept with satisfaction as it is with the sorrow that comes with knowledge.

The public has no idea whatsoever about whether the members of the jury were impartial civilians, or whether the accused is really guilty and to what degree.

As a result, there is nothing left to do except conjecture as to whether the intelligence services did indeed cut short the transfer of sensitive data to a third party, or rather, not cut short, but detect the violation after the act, which means their performance in the first place can hardly be considered excellent.

It is worth recalling that several similar criminal cases have been brought against Russian scientists over recent years and in none of them did the prosecutors present convincing evidence of the suspects’ guilt.

I am not saying here that in Sutyagin’s case an innocent person was convicted. Maybe he really is guilty. It is just that in line with the principles of justice, a person’s guilt is supposed to be established at an open adversarial trial.

Some information or testimonies presented in court may have to be kept secret for reasons of national security, but only when it is truly necessary.

Otherwise, what the public gets is not a confirmation of an all-important principle of the inevitability of punishment but a proposal to substitute knowledge for trust. But it is still too early to include the law enforcement system and the judiciary in the spiritual sphere, where such a substitution would be quite relevant.

The same applies to a situation not connected to state secrets in any way, but just as veiled in secrecy. After the tragedy in the Moscow water park [when a glass-and-concrete roof collapsed on bathers in February this year] it was announced that the public would not be told who is guilty until the special commission set up to investigate the incident has completed its work.

The commission has apparently now completed its work. But it was suggested that the tragedy was caused by an explosion, then the blast theory was ruled out; on the contrary, there were faults in the design of the roof. Now, according to the latest reports, the tragedy might have been caused by some other reason, which will probably be established by military experts.

Well, they ought to decide: either they don’t make any official statements before the probe is completed, or they substantiate their interim conclusions with evidence.

As a result, again, the only thing one can be sure of is that we will never know who and what is to blame. All that will be left for us is to either accept or not accept the final version of the Transvaal tragedy, offered to us by the authorities.

Any hope of getting the true picture is as unrealistic as in the above-mentioned Sutyagin case, which is sad, since the information space built on conjectures and blind belief is unlikely to contribute to the establishment of a civic society in Russia. But then the authorities can at least ensure a doubling of the GDP earlier than planned — merely by making an official statement saying it has already taken place.

9th Apr 2004, 12:40
Foolhardy?! Sorry TheStormyPetrel, how is one to comment on Leonid Zlotin's action on this secret Russian trial when there is no other published information except that the accused was convicted of espionage? Anyway, smart Russians will probably be remaining silent. They know all about the results of loose talk in that region. Maybe in 25 years time...:ugh: