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The Kremlin said late on December 31 that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has signed a bill into law that scraps the right to a jury trial for defendants in cases involving terrorism, insurrection, or other public unrest, AP reported.

Those accused in such cases -- which in addition to terrorism and treason would include armed revolt, sabotage, and rioting -- will instead be tried by a three-judge panel.

Critics say the measure, which won legislative approval in mid-December, marks a clear retreat from democratic reform and a return to Soviet practice as an implicit social contract breaks down.

It comes amid growing fear of civil unrest (also here and here) in Russia as economic woes mount and an effort by lawmakers to expand the legal definition of treason.

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