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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Strasbourg Court Will Rule on Moscow Judge

The European Court of Human Rights on Thursday will issue a ruling on a Moscow judge who was dismissed after publicly complaining about constant political pressure on the city's judiciary, a court spokeswoman said.

The court has decided by a narrow margin to uphold Olga Kudeshkina's claim that her dismissal constituted a violation of the freedom of expression, Kommersant and Vremya Novostei reported Wednesday.

The court spokeswoman refused to comment on the reports and merely confirmed that a decision had been made. "The ruling will be published together with a press release Thursday," the spokeswoman, Kristina Pencheva-Malinowski, said by telephone from Strasbourg.

Kudeshkina was disqualified from serving as a judge in 2004 after she refused to rule in favor of prosecutors in the case of Pavel Zaitsev, an Interior Ministry investigator who headed a fraud probe connected to the Tri Kita furniture store.

In interviews at the time, Kudeshkina stated that judges were under constant pressure from their superiors and that in Zaitsev's case the Moscow City Court's chief judge, Olga Yegorova, had summoned her to her office to make it clear what ruling was expected. Yegorova remains the head of the city court.

The Strasbourg court's decision was made by a narrow margin of 4-3 and only after a judge from Azerbaijan was replaced, the two newspapers reported, citing anonymous sources in the court's secretariat.

A preliminary hearing in December ended with a 3-4 vote against upholding Kudeshkina's complaint, the reports said.

But at the final hearing on Feb. 5, Judge Khanlar Gadzhiev, who in December voted against Kudeshkina, was in his native Baku and could not attend. The judge who replaced him voted in Kudeshkina's favor, tipping the overall result, Kommersant said.

Kudeshkina and her lawyers were unavailable for comment Thursday but announced that they would hold a news conference Thursday afternoon in Moscow.

The court has frequently ruled against Russia in the past, including a decision last month to accept a complaint from former Yukos managers. As a signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights, Russia is obliged to accept the court's ruling.

But human rights groups point out that the government has in the past paid damages ordered by the court without addressing fundamental issues.

"These damages really are not central but symbolical. The court's raison d'etre is to show up systemic failures when it comes to implementing the Human Rights Convention," said Friederike Behr, a researcher with Amnesty International's Moscow bureau.