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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Supreme Court to Hear Nikitin Case Feb. 4

ST. PETERSBURG -- On Feb. 4 the Russian Supreme Court will hear the case of former navy captain and environmentalist Alexander Nikitin, accused by the Federal Security Service of espionage for co-authoring a report on the nuclear-waste disposal practices of Russia's Murmansk-based Northern Fleet.

The court date is a result of appeals of an October ruling by a St. Petersburg court that neither convicted nor acquitted Nikitin, but returned the case for further investigation.

That decision was appealed by both Nikitin and the Prosecutor General's Office. Nikitin said that he views the setting of a court date as a positive development and expects a fair hearing from the high court. "We think this is a good development," he said.

In October, a St. Petersburg court under Judge Sergei Golets ruled that the FSB's case against Nikitin was unfounded. Golets, however, stopped short of an outright acquittal.

Nikitin's lawyer, Yury Shmidt, said then that the ruling was the best that could be expected, adding that sending a case back for further investigation was "designed to be used when the court found it impossible to render a guilty verdict but also found it necessary to save the prestige of the investigators."

Nikitin was charged with espionage more than two and a half years ago after he co-authored a report for the Norwegian environmental organization Bellona accusing the Russian navy of being negligent with nuclear waste.

He was named a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International and has been invited to the U.S. White House to receive an environmental prize and to Canada to emigrate if he chooses, but Russia has let him do neither.

Nikitin still needs special permission to leave St. Petersburg. He has said he will not leave Russia until his name is cleared.