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6 Jun, 2008 09:41

Unfair accusations may cost Russian officials

Compensation for victims of ‘miscarriage of justice’ should come from officials who wrongly accused them, according to Russia’s Prosecutor General.

Thousands of people in Russia are wrongly charged or convicted of crimes every year. Last year the Russian government paid out about 120 million roubles ($US 5 millions) in compensation.

Vitaly Yevstifeev is a doctor treating addicts and has spent three years proving his innocence in court. He could have gotten up to 3 years imprisonment, but managed to prove his case.

He believes his rivals paid the prosecution to try to get him locked up.

“I used to treat a woman with alcohol abuse problems. I was arrested while treating her with a widely used medical substance, and told that I had no right to use this specific drug while trying to cure her. But I broke no law whatsoever, and won my case,” Yevstifeev says.

Yevstifeev says he doesn't care about compensation and he's happy enough with the case simply having ended. His lawyer Evgeny Chernousov says fabricated cases are very much the same, so it's easy to tell when you're faced with one.

“It's easier to win in Russian roulette than to get a not-guilty verdict in a fabricated criminal case,” Chernousov says.

Russia’s Prosecutor General, Yuri Chaika, is taking action to tackle the problem. He proposed penalising officials for wrongly accusing innocent people personally.

“When prosecutors see that an official in a case is carrying out low-quality work, or seems to be personally interested in the outcome of a case, the possible guilt of an official should be investigated,” Chaika said.

The prosecutor says if officials start paying money from their own pocket, they'll start working harder and will think twice before getting involved in corrupt cases. Russia could become more efficient in fighting corruption.

The task is not easy to put into action, but it's a step closer in providing stronger protection for the innocent and improving the reputation of Russia's legal establishment. Experts say seeing real results will take time.