Posts Tagged ‘sadakat kadri’

July 2013

Sergei Magnitsky trial: this is Putin’s kind of justice

The Guardian

In prosecuting a cadaver the message to Russians was clear: cross us and we’ll nail you, dead or alive.

It was an unusually bad week for Sergei Magnitsky. After a 16-month trial, the Russian accountant was found guilty of facilitating tax evasion by an investment fund for which he once worked, Hermitage Capital, to the tune of $17m. He was only charged because he had accused officials of a tax scam more than 13 times as lucrative, admittedly, but arbitrary legal processes are hardly unknown in Vladimir Putin’s Russia. It was misfortunes of a more personal nature that made Magnitsky’s trial unusual. He was dead, having expired in official custody and entered his Moscow grave more than three-and-a-half years earlier.

The chief executive of Hermitage Capital, who was convicted in absentia with his dead colleague, was appalled. According to William Browder, “Putin has brought shame on Russia … for being the first western leader in 1,000 years to prosecute a dead man”. As a statement of history, that happened to be wrong – but the precedents bring credit to neither Putin nor the Russian legal system.

Trials of the dead were actually endemic across Europe for much of the last millennium, born out of half-understood notions of Roman law, and two European rulers became particularly keen on posthumous condemnations.

The future James I resorted to them on several occasions in Scotland: in 1600, for instance, he had two alleged assassins pickled in whisky, vinegar and allspice, put on trial, and then mutilated. Seventy years later, France’s Louis XIV enacted a statute that required all dead duellists, traitors and suicides to be tried for their crimes. Such trials were considered so important that dead defendants were guaranteed the right to counsel (in a law that simultaneously obliged living ones to speak for themselves), while cadavers of limited means were made eligible for legal aid. Any corpses that were found guilty – after due consideration of the evidence – had to be drawn to a gibbet and hung there by the feet for 24 hours, before being hurled into the town cesspit.

Read More →

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Buzz
  • LinkedIn
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Tumblr
  • StumbleUpon
  • FriendFeed
  • NewsVine
  • Digg