Senior judges in Ingushetia have written
to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev complaining that republican President Yunus-Bek Yevkurov interferes in the work of the judiciary by dictating to individual judges what verdict to hand down. Yevkurov for his part has flatly rejected that accusation and insists that he only asks that judges should abide within the framework of the law.
The resolution accusing Yevkurov was adopted on February 12 but sent to Medvedev only on March 23. It was signed by Magomed Daurbekov, chairman of the Chamber of Judges, and his three deputies. It claims that Yevkurov began by criticizing individual court rulings and went on to brand the entire court system corrupt and accuse judges of unwarranted leniency towards persons accused of terrorism.
The signatories suggest
that Yevkurov's objective is to get rid of judges he considers "inconvenient," including Supreme Court Chairman Mikhail Zadvornov. They describe Zadvornov, who was named to that post in 2007 by then-Russian President Vladimir Putin, as "engaging in a principled defense of the independence and authority of the judiciary" and as widely respected among the legal community.
Daurbekov told the Russian daily "Kommersant" that he and his colleagues had no alternative to appealing to Medvedev, given that Yevkurov holds the judiciary "responsible for just about all the problems the republic faces." Daurbekov specifically rejected Yevkurov's complaint that the courts are too lenient towards persons charged with "terrorism": he pointed out that the Russian Supreme Court has not overturned a single acquittal by a court in Ingushetia in a terrorism case. Daurbekov also said that Yevkurov's "campaign to discredit the judiciary" has already led to some judges hesitating to hand down a "principled" verdict in criminal cases.
Yevkurov responded with a string of counteraccusations. He said that from the start of his presidency he was aware that "within the judiciary there is a category of people who act as they please," and that "anyone can obtain a verdict to his liking by paying the appropriate price."
Specifically, Yevkurov pointed out
that none of the 37 corruption trials since he was named president in October 2008 has resulted in a jail sentence. Even though the accused had stolen up to 125 million rubles ($4.23 million), Yevkurov continued, they were simply fined up to 500,000 rubles.
In an interview
three months ago with RIA Novosti, Yevkurov expressed similar frustration that unnamed judges were quietly sabotaging his efforts to eradicate the official corruption for which Ingushetia had become a byword under his predecessor as president, Murat Zyazikov.
Yevkurov has asked the Russian Federation's Supreme Court to dispatch a commission to Ingushetia to assess the situation.
The judges' official complaint, and the publicity it has received create an embarrassing quandary for Medvedev, himself a trained lawyer. Yevkurov was one of the first major personnel appointments Medvedev made as president, and to date he has unequivocally backed him.
Residents of Ingushetia are less impressed: an opinion poll conducted earlier this year by the independent website ingushetia.org
found that almost 46 percent of respondents said they thought the situation has deteriorated since Yevkurov was named president. Only 12.6 percent perceived a visible improvement.