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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Nikitin Lodges Appeal With Supreme Court

ST. PETERSBURG -- Both the prosecution and defense in the trial of environmentalist and ex-navy Captain Alexander Nikitin have appealed to the Russian Supreme Court, protesting a St. Petersburg city court ruling to send the case back for further investigation.

In his decision last week, Judge Sergei Golets said the prosecution's charges were too vague and told the Federal Security Service, or FSB, to specify precisely what military secrets Nikitin had made public.

St. Petersburg prosecutor Alexander Gutsan asked the Supreme Court in Moscow to overturn Golets' decision. In his appeal filed Tuesday, Gutsan complained that the lower court had drawn "premature conclusions'' about the evidence, Itar-Tass reported.

A woman at Gutsan's office said he does not give interviews.

Nikitin said the prosecutor's appeal was not unexpected. "But today we also sent our own appeal to the Supreme Court, asking them to throw out the case," he said Thursday by telephone.

He is being tried on charges of high treason and passing alleged military secrets about the Russian Northern Fleet's nuclear waste disposal practices to activists from the Norwegian environmental organization, Bellona.

If convicted, Nikitin, who co-wrote a 1995 environmental report for Bellona, faces up to 20 years in jail. The FSB, which is the successor to the KGB, arrested him in February 1996. He then spent 10 months in jail, and since his release, must receive permission to leave the limits of St. Petersburg.

While Golets' decision is seen as a small victory for the defense and a first step toward freedom for Nikitin, the defense continues to insist that the case be thrown out of court, citing violation of international legal standards by the prosecution and the court.

In the West, the prosecution's handling of the Nikitin case would almost certainly have led to an acquittal, the Moscow office of Human Rights Watch said in a report.

"In spite of the seemingly positive decision made by the court a week ago, that decision still does not meet international standards of justice," Nikitin said. "According to those standards, the case should be closed if the prosecution cannot prove the charges it has brought against me."

The Supreme Court must rule on the appeals within a month. Should it rule against Nikitin, the defense said it will appeal to the European Court in Strasbourg, France. "Over the next month we will prepare material for the European Court, in case the Supreme Court does not rule in our favor," Nikitin said. "We plan to prove that this case against me has violated international legal norms."

Nuclear Power Minister Yevgeny Adamov said Thursday that Nikitin had divulged "critical information" and state secrets, Interfax reported.

"I saw the information passed to Norway, and as an expert, I think that information about the design and structure of nuclear reactors on Russian submarines has nothing to do with environmental protection," Adamov was quoted as telling reporters in Moscow.

He added that while some of the information was indeed public, its further dissemination served to damage Russia's national interests.