Nikita Zhuravel (on the right) at a court. Photo: Dmitry Rogulin / "Gorodskie Vesti" (City News)

22 February 2024, 20:20

Lawyers dispute on proportionality of punishment requested for Zhuravel for burning Koran

The punishment of 3.5 years in a penal colony, requested by the prosecutor for Nikita Zhuravel, a native of Volgograd, accused of burning the Koran, is severe by the standards of the Russian law enforcement practice; and the prosecution has incorrectly qualified the defendant's actions, Alexander Verkhovsky believes.

The "Caucasian Knot" has reported that with account of the current conditions in Chechnya, human rights defenders doubted Zhuravel's testimonies about the burning of the Koran. Lawyers have stressed that Zhuravel's confession could be based on the hope to earn the court's leniency, but his words that he had acted not alone could make the crime qualification more serious.

The prison term requested by the prosecutor doesn't look very severe by Russian practices, but the very qualification of the charges raises questions, said Alexander Verkhovsky, the head of the SOVA Information and Analytical Centre*.

"The problem here is that the charge elements mismatch the offence gravity ... Part 2 of Article 148 (public actions aimed at insulting religious feelings, committed at a worship place, – note of the "Caucasian Knot") is applied is when an action was committed in a church, mosque or near them, but it didn't happen nearby at all. The Koran is not a place, but a subject," Mr Verkhovsky has clarified, adding that formally, "for a person who commits a crime for the first time, there is no reason to request the maximum sentence."

The term requested by the prosecutor for Zhuravel is quite severe, taking into account the current practices in Russia, the expert has noted. He sees political factors that will prevail over legal ones in this case.

The prison term was requested by the prosecutor within the framework of established practices, and also with account of the fact that Zhuravel is in the dock for the first time, Miki Arapiev, a lawyer of the Moscow Bar Association, has stated. He also believes that the court may increase the punishment, despite the position of the state prosecution.

*Included by the Russian Ministry of Justice (MoJ) into the register of foreign agents.

This article was originally published on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’ on February 21, 2024 at 03:50 am MSK. To access the full text of the article, click here.

Author: Alikhan Mamsurov Source: СK correspondent

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