Thursday, November 21, 2019

Russians Charged with Political Crimes who Admit Guilt aren’t Guaranteed Reduced Sentences, MBK Journalist Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 18 – As in most countries, prosecutors in Russia sometimes hold out the promise of reduced sentences for those charged with political crimes like participation in demonstrations if they will admit their guilt. But an investigation by Viktoriya Li of the MBK news agency says that officials often go back on their word.

            She reports on several such cases that have occurred recently against the background that Russian courts convict approximately 99 percent of those brought to trial. Lawyers for political defendants say, Li says, that “even if the case is a political one and the individual really could receive a shorter sentence, he must decide for himself whether to do so or not” (

            Those who face charges of terrorism, which carries a long sentence, face a difficult choice if they are offered reduced charges in exchange for admission, one lawyer says. If the individual charged didn’t commit the act and that he has not done anything to justify such charges, he can deny his guilt and perhaps count on being let off entirely on appeal.

            “Each situation is unique,” Mariya Eismont, a Moscow lawyer says; but she argues that “if you aren’t guilty, you don’t need to admit guilt regardless of the charges.  Would anyone admit murdering someone if he or she hadn’t?  But people feel the pressures of the situation differently and one can’t know how one would react unless one is there.

            At the same time, everyone charged with a political crime must know as well that prosecutors often don't keep their promises and so admitting to something one hasn't done is not necessarily the best strategy as it can and will be used against anyone who does so.

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