Russian Engineer Alexandr Nikitin Finally Acquitted
December 29, 1999
In a decision hailed as a victory for free speech, Russian naval engineer Alexandr Nikitin was acquitted of espionage charges on December 29, 1999. He had been charged because of his work on a report, The Russian Northern Fleet: Sources of Radioactive Contamination, that was published by a Norwegian environmental group, the Bellona Foundation. The report describes the dangers posed by nuclear dumpsites and nuclear-powered submarines of the Russian Northern Fleet. The Russian Federal Security Services alleged that Mr. Nikitin had disclosed state secrets in the report. Judge Sergei Golets found that the charges against Mr. Nikitin were unconstitutional because they were based on secret military decrees of which Mr. Nikitin could not have been aware. He also found that the charges ran counter to the European Convention on Human Rights.
Hundreds of correspondents of the CHR and many participants in the International Human Rights Network of Academies and Scholarly Societies wrote appeals in Mr. Nikitin's behalf. Additionally, colleagues affiliated with the CHR and the Network were steadfast in their responses to our requests for direct personal action, repeatedly expressing concern to their Russian colleagues and to government officials about Mr. Nikitin’s plight.
Dr. Marianne Grunberg-Manago, a former president of the French Academy of Sciences, represented the International Human Rights Network of Academies and Scholarly Societies in St. Petersburg during the opening days of Mr. Nikitin’s last trial, the eighth since his arrest in 1996. The Bellona Foundation actively supported Mr. Nikitin throughout his ordeal. Thomas Jandl of Bellona USA provided invaluable assistance by keeping the CHR regularly and reliably informed about developments in the case. For detailed information on the case, please see Mr. Nikitin's case summary.