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30 Mar, 2010 14:11

Death penalty for terrorism?

Despite the suicide-bomb attacks in Moscow on Monday, Russia will not introduce the death penalty for terrorists.

The Moscow Metro bomb attacks have reignited the debate on whether there should be legal room for capital punishment.

However, despite claims from some officials, Russia's top senator, Sergey Mironov, said the death penalty should not be used because there is a risk of convicting to death innocent people. Instead, the senator suggested giving terrorists life sentences.

“The most important issue in judicial and law enforcement practice is the inevitability of punishment,” Mironov told Interfax news agency.

In addition, among the amendments that the committee is going to submit to the government and the Supreme Court in the near future is a draft that would ban pardoning those responsible for terrorist acts that led to a massive loss of life.

Aleksandr Torshin, Vice Speaker of the Russian Federation Council, also refuted reports that the authorities are going to reintroduce the death penalty.

"Neither the relevant committees nor commissions of our chamber have been preparing or considering such a bill," he said on Tuesday.

Following the attacks in the Moscow metro, some officials claimed that they were going to work on amendments to the criminal law that would provide for capital punishment for the organization and perpetration of terrorist acts.

“This is our reaction to yesterday’s tragic events in Moscow,” Analtoly Lyskov, of the Federation Council’s committee on legal issues, was as quoted as saying by RIA Novosti. At least 39 people were killed and more than 70 injured as a result of suicide bombings in the Metro on Monday morning.

“If such terrible crimes are being committed, we should offer to society a new kind of a criminal penalty so that prior to getting involved in terrorist activities, people would know the consequences that will follow for them,” Lyskov said.

President Dmitry Medvedev has also hinted at the possibility of toughening anti-terrorism laws, though he did not clarify what exact changes there might be.

“There is a reason to return to the problem of administering justice under [Criminal Code articles] on terrorism and related crimes, and discuss the perfection of this kind of practice,” he said on Tuesday at a meeting concerning the improvement of the country's judicial system, Itar-Tass reported.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, known for his harsh rhetoric when referring to terrorists, said the attacks’ organizers, who are in hiding, “should be picked out from the bottom of the sewage.”

“That is a matter of honor for the law enforcement agencies. And it will be done,” Putin promised on Tuesday at a meeting on transport security issues.

A similar view was voiced by Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, who believes the country is simply “not ready for [a ban of] the death penalty.”

“Without the harshest measures being taken to counter terrorism, it is impossible to solve the problem,” he told journalists Monday.

Currently, according to Article 205 of Russia’s Criminal Code, the maximum punishment a person can get for terrorism is life imprisonment. Even though the law does name the death penalty as one of the possible punishments for serious crimes, it has not been used since a moratorium was introduced in 1999. Following heated debates at the end of 2009, when the 10-year moratorium was set to expire, the Constitutional Court ruled out the return of capital punishment.

Read also: Russia unable to abolish death penalty because of terrorist threat