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Russian Parliament Amends Antiterrorism Laws

MOSCOW -- The Russian Duma has approved amendments to antiterrorism legislation.

The amendments institute more severe punishments for terrorist acts and suggest that the trials of alleged terrorists be decided by "troikas," not by a jury.

Duma deputy Vladimir Vasilyev told journalists that in the southern regions of Russia, especially in the North Caucasus, the populations are traditionally closely related and jury members often have to decide the fates of close or distant relatives. He said this makes the "troika" system -- in which a judge issues a verdict with two other assistants -- more efficient.

Retired judge Sergei Pashin told RFE/RL's Russian Service that such a decision would be a mistake and that the trial-by-jury system is an important indicator of a democratic society.

Pashin added that replacing the jury trial with the "troika" reminded him of the Stalin era, when the major factor in trials was fear, not justice.