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12 jurors vs. 1 karate champion


: Yelena Rudneva   .Ru

Preliminary investigation into the murder of State Duma deputy Sergei Yushenkov has been completed, the Prosecutor Generals Office reported on Wednesday, adding that 23 volumes of evidence gathered by investigators would be forwarded to Moscow City Court shortly.

The key suspect in the Yushenkov murder case is Mikhail Kodanev, one of the leaders of the pro-Berezovsky wing of Liberal Russia. Sergei Yushenkov, a State Duma deputy and a co-chairman of the Liberal Russia party, was shot dead on 17 April 2003 near his house in northwestern Moscow, following a split in the party, which Boris Berezovsky had helped to co-found. In late 2002 Sergei Yushenkov and Viktor Pokhmelin fell out with the tycoon and formed their own Liberal Russia wing.

Boris Berezovsky then appointed Mikhail Kodanev his representative in Russia and chairman of his faction of the party. The tycoon several times attempted to make it up with Yushenkov. Their last meeting took place in London, two weeks before the deputys death. According to investigators, Mikhail Kodanev knew of those meetings and feared he would lose control over the partys finances, should the rival factions re-unite.

According to the Prosecutor Generals Office, investigators came upon the tracks of the alleged masterminds of Yushenkovs murder and their accomplices in mid-June, when two suspects, 30-year-old Kulachinsky and 34-year-old Kiselyov, were detained in Syktyvkar, the capital of Russias northern Komi Republic, on suspicion of having carried out the contract hit on Yushenkov. Both were charged with murder.

To all appearances, namely those two had fingered Mikhail Kodanev and his aide Alexander Vinnik as masterminds of the crime. Mikhail Kodanev, the chairman of the executive committee of the pro-Berezovsky faction of Liberal Russia, was detained shortly after Kulachinsky and Kiselyov. On June 26 Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov gave to understand Kodanev and Vinnik ordered Yushenkov to be killed.

Two more residents of the Komi Republic, Vladimir Palkov and Anton Drozd, were detained on July 9 as alleged accomplices of the assassins. Investigators claimed that the accused helped the direct executors of that murder - their task was to provide transport, surveillance and to take care of other technical issues.

All six suspects will go on trial shortly, the prosecutors said on Wednesday. The only good news for them is that their case will be heard by a jury.

Genri Reznik, a defence lawyer for Kodanev, believes that a trial of jury increases his clients chances for acquittal. According to Reznik, statistics are available to show that a usual court of law acquits less than 1 per cent of suspects per year, whilst the court of jury some 12 per cent.

A trial by jury guarantees more impartiality and objectiveness in examining the case. Mikhail Kodanev has not acknowledged his guilt and firmly believes he has been slandered. As regards Kodanevs alleged accomplices, their cases will most likely be examined by a jury, too, since it is impossible to examine them separately, Reznik said.

Mikhail Kodanev is charged with infringing on the life of a political figure, murder and illegal possession and sale of weapons. If convicted on all those charges, Kodanev could face life in prison, his lawyer said. A professional sportsman Kodanev is the USSR karate champion he has serious health problems, suffering, in particular, from high blood pressure.

Reznik hopes that the court examination of Kodanevs case will be open to public, and will not take longer than 1.5-2 months.

03 16:53


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