Guilty Until Proven Innocent in Russia . . . and in Fact, maybe you’re still guilty even then

The picture at the left adorned the front page of the Moscow Times website on Tuesday. It’s a picture of VIP Bank Chief Alexei Frenkel (well, a picture of his suit jacket, anyway, he’s the one behind bars), who according to the MT had just been arrested “on suspicion of organizing the murder of Andrei Kozlov, formerly the Central Bank’s second-highest ranking official. Frenkel’s arrest comes three days after that of Liana Askerova,who was charged Friday with involvement in the Sept. 13 killing.”

Now don’t be confused: The picture was not taken in a Moscow jail, but in a Moscow courtroom. You see, when you are accused of a crime in Russia you stand before the court behind bars, guilty until proven innocent . . . and maybe not even then.

One can’t help but remark upon the wonderful convenience of it all. Let’s say, just for the sake of argument, that the Kremlin didn’t care for Andrei Kozlov. Let’s say, for instance, that he was a crusading politico trying to clean corruption out of Russia’s banking sector, and the oligarchs close to “President” Vladmir Putin didn’t care for that much. So they kill him. But the fun doesn’t stop there.

After they’ve killed him, you see, then they’ve got a perfect excuse to arrest other people they don’t like and charge them with the crime. Of course, if they can’t find anybody they don’t like because they’ve already killed most of them, then they can simply pick somebody at random. In the worst case scenario, they can use the court system to cover their tracks; in the best case, they kill two jailbirds with one stone.

Isn’t it romantic?

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