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Duma members divided in attitude to US court sentence in Russian pilot case

September 08, 2011, 19:22 UTC+3

His first deputy Leonid Kalashnikov sees no reasons for doubting the impartiality of the US court, which sentenced Yaroshenko to 20 years in jail for drug smuggling

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MOSCOW, September 8 (Itar-Tass) —— Members of the State Duma’s international affairs committee are divided in their comments on the sentence pronounced in a US court to Russian air pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko. The committee’s chief, Konstantin Kosachev, is angry over the circumstances of the trial and dismayed by “such a harsh sentence.”

His first deputy Leonid Kalashnikov sees no reasons for doubting the impartiality of the US court, which sentenced Yaroshenko to 20 years in jail for drug smuggling.

"From the political point of view there should follow legal assessment of what has happened from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and I have no doubt that it will be extremely tough," Kosachev told Itar-Tass.

He said that the Russian deputies were well aware of "how and with what legal violations" the trial of Yaroshenko proceeded, they repeatedly expressed their concerns to the U.S. Congress and "even in personal capacity" contacted U.S. judges. "The whole set of instruments was employed, but, unfortunately, all efforts were in vain," said the head of the committee.

Kosachev added that the Russian side had certain claims and objections in connection with the arrest of Yaroshenko.

"The very principle of the extraterritoriality of U.S. law – stipulating that any person may be arrested in any state – is contrary to international law. The circumstances of the detention of Yaroshenko and his keeping in custody in inhuman conditions is also outrageous. This is clear violation of rights by all American authorities," concluded Kosachev.

He vowed that Moscow would not leave Yaroshenko in trouble and "will continue to defend his rights."

At the same time, the first deputy chairman of the Duma Committee on Foreign Affairs, Leonid Kalashnikov, sees no reason to doubt the objectivity of the American court.

"I believe that the American court, in this sense, perhaps, is more independent than ours," he said on the radio station Ekho Moskvy.

The legislator sees no sense in demanding the extradition of the convicted Russian.

"I do not see any particular reason for this, especially so, because it is a criminal affair, and not a political one," said Kalashnikov. "He was not a spy, he really was involved in smuggling, so may he stay in jail."

The first deputy chairman of the Duma Committee on Foreign Affairs, Leonid Slutsky, has described the 20-year prison term for Yaroshenko as unduly harsh and warned that it might accelerate the adoption of a law on sanctions against foreign nationals involved in the infringement of the rights of Russian citizens.

He said the circumstances of Yaroshenko’s arrest, including his secret extradition to the United States were "a demonstration of egregious human rights abuse and double standards."

"A citizen of the Russian Federation was abducted from the territory of Liberia. The Russian authorities were not notified of his detention. This is a complete violation of international law," said the deputy.

Slutsky said that back last summer, after a "round-table discussion" where the Yaroshenko affair was discussed, representatives of all Duma factions introduced a bill On Measures of Influience on those Involved in the Violation of Rights of Russian Citizens Abroad. The document envisages the imposition of sanctions, including a ban on entry, doing business in Russia, the arrest of accounts in Russian banks and their foreign affiliates.

"At present this bill is pending consideration by the appropriate committee on Constitutional Law and Statehood. But I think that against the background of the sentence for Yaroshenko its dischssion can be fast-tracked," said Slutsky.

The federal court in the southern district of New York on Wednesday pronounced a sentence for Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko, convicted of conspiracy to smuggle large quantities of drugs, part of which was intended for sale in the United States. The presiding federal judge in the trial, Jed Rakoff sentenced Yaroshenko to 20-year imprisonment.

As the vice-consul of the Russian Federation in New York, Alexander Otchainov, told reporters at the end of the hearing Russia had not expected such a harsh decision from the American court.

Yaroshenko was arrested in the Liberian capital Monrovia in May 2010, after which he was secretly brought to the United States. He pleaded not guilty.

His lawyer, Stephen Zyss said he intended to appeal against the court’s decision and will cooperate with the Russian authorities in efforts to secure the return of his defendant home.

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