Aleksandr Nikitin, a former Russian sailor charged with treason for work done while employed by the Oslo-based Bellona Foundation, has been prohibited by the St. Petersburg prosecutors office from choosing his own defense lawyer. Yuri Schmidt, who is representing Nikitin before the Russian constitutional court, says he has been denied permission to visit Nikitin. The conflict hinges on a provision of the law "On State Secrets" which requires special clearance for lawyers handling cases involving state secrets. Nikitin, who was investigating environmental threats posed by the Northern Fleet’s disposal of nuclear materials, has been accused of damaging national security for handing over related documents to Bellona. (7) He was arrested February 6. The Constitutional Court is considering the case, which has strained relations between Russia and various European groups who see Nikitin’s detention as a human rights violation. (See Monitor, February 13)
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