OLD Media Moves

The unnerving Klebnikov verdict

May 18, 2006

Richard Behar of Forbes writes about the recent verdict in Russia in the death of Forbes editor Paul Klebnikov. Three men on trial for kiling him were found not guilty.

Behar writes, “If the verdict hasn’t exactly created shockwaves, that’s because few people know the details. The Klebnikov trial was closed to the press and the public, with all the participants under a strict gag order imposed by the judge. That’s unfortunate, because what went down in that courtroom should send shivers down the spine of anyone worried about the state of criminal justice in Russia today–or, for that matter, in any society that believes a fair trial can be conducted in secrecy.

Paul Klebnikov“A reconstruction of the case from sources including members of the Klebnikov family, insiders in Washington, court officers in Moscow and a range of law enforcement officials in Russia and the West–suggests that a seemingly solid case presented by a team of the country’s best prosecutors led to entirely unexpected verdicts, raising unnerving questions about what happened and why.

“For starters, the trial was sealed to protect sensitive trial evidence and to protect jurors and witnesses from intimidation. A lawyer for the Klebnikov family had proposed that the courtroom be closed only for those moments when confidential evidence was presented (just as the ‘in camera’ system works in the West), but the idea was rejected by the government. As for the intimidation of participants, that concern was valid, as even legal representatives of the Klebnikov family say they suffered harassing phone calls and smashed-in car windows.”

Read more here.

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