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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Jailed Nikitin Loses Bid for Civil Case

Jailed environmentalist Alexander Nikitin lost a chance at freedom Monday when the civilian court judge and prosecutor handling the case against him decided in a closed-door meeting that the trial should be transferred to military court.

Nikitin, who has been in a St. Petersburg prison since his arrest Feb. 6, was scheduled to attend a hearing in civilian court Monday to determine whether or not he could be released pending trial.

According to Nils Bohmer, a representative of the Norwegian environmental group Bellona, neither Nikitin nor his lawyer, Yury Schmidt, were present.

"They would not even let Alexander out of jail to attend the meeting," said Bohmer, speaking in a telephone interview from Oslo.

However, the hearing was canceled after the civilian court washed its hands of the responsibility of tackling the espionage charges brought against the former navy captain. Nikitin was arrested for his role in co-authoring a Bellona report on nuclear waste security of Russia's Northern Fleet.

The FSB has stated Nikitin used his military ties to access secret information. Bellona officials insist all the materials used in the report were based on open sources, and said repeated attempts to submit their sources as evidence in the investigation have been refused.

According to Bellona officials, Nikitin's lawyer will protest transferring the Nikitin case to military court. According to a March 29 ruling by Russia's highest legal authority, the Constitutional Court, the case against Nikitin should be heard in civil court.

"Nikitin is a private citizen, and he should be tried as a civilian," said Bohmer. "The FSB wants a military trial because the court will be closed, and they will have more control over Nikitin's lawyer."