Russia's 99% conviction rate thrown into question

MOSCOW // When defendant Inna Yermoshkina arrived at a Moscow court last October for the verdict in her criminal fraud case, she brought along a bag packed with clothes, toiletries and medicine. Ms Yermoshkina, 43, said she wanted to make sure she had some basic items if she were arrested. Ms Yermoshkina had good reason to expect a conviction. She had accused senior officials of corruption in the licensing of public notaries who earn large salaries thanks to Russia's suffocating bureaucracy. She was then indicted for alleged fraudulent real estate deals - charges she claims were retribution for her anti-corruption drive.

But then something unusual happened: Ms Yermoshkina was acquitted. What made Ms Yermoshkina's acquittal so remarkable was not just the cast of powerful enemies she had accrued. She also overcame extraordinary statistical odds. Ms Yermoshkina was among the less than one per cent off all criminal defendants last year who were acquitted in Russian courts. More than 920,000 people were convicted in bench and jury trials last year in Russia, while just 9,000 were acquitted, the Russian Supreme Court chairman Vyacheslav Lebedev announced last week.

Russia's conviction rate has remained steady at more than 99 per cent, reflecting the lack of independence of the country's judiciary and the persistence of a Soviet-era mentality that everyone who is accused of a crime must be guilty, Russian legal experts and rights activists say. Ms Yermoshkina said she had never expected to be acquitted. "I knew the statistics, and I concluded it was impossible to find justice in Russia," she said.

Senior Russian officials - including Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president - and rights activists alike have emphasised the need to improve the independence of the country's legal system. But little has been done to mitigate the pressure on Russian judges to convict, and judges who acquit too many defendants can face serious career repercussions, said Sergei Nasonov, a Moscow law professor and an expert on jury trials in Russia.

"Unfortunately a judge in Russia can lose his job for too many acquittals," Mr Nasonov said. "If there are too many acquittals - not incorrect acquittals, mind you - a suspicion arises that the judge may be corrupt, and reasons will be found to fire him. This creates fear among judges." Conviction rates in the West are considerably lower. In Britain, for example, 83 per cent of defendants were convicted in 2008, according to the most recent available data on the British ministry of justice's website.

Japan has traditionally had conviction rates higher than 99 per cent, though the cases are almost always based on confessions rather than thorough investigations. Furthermore, prosecutors, fearful of acquittals that could threaten their careers, typically only go to court with cases they know they can win. The astronomical conviction rate prompted Japan last year to introduce jury trials for the first time since before the Second World War.

Some defenders of Russia's almost 100 per cent conviction rate say the statistic is evidence of exemplary investigations and trial work conducted by law enforcement authorities. That argument, however, is undermined by the significantly higher percentage of Russian jury trials that end in acquittals, Mr Nasonov said. "The cases are being handled by the same investigating bodies, but in jury trials between 15 and 20 per cent of defendants are acquitted," Mr Nasonov said.

Jury trials are still a relatively new phenomenon in Russia, having been introduced in a few select regions in the early 1990s and established nationwide in 2003. They still represent a tiny percentage of the overall number of trials in Russia, however. Last year, 1,500 defendants were tried by jury in Russian courts, 18 per cent of whom were acquitted, Mr Lebedev, the Supreme Court chairman, said last week.

Critics of jury trials say Russian jurors largely lack sufficient legal acumen to properly consider evidence and issue verdicts. Even the minuscule number of acquittals in Russia are often successfully appealed by prosecutors, prompting judges to order retrials. Last year, for example, a Moscow jury found three defendants not guilty in the 2006 slaying of investigative journalist and Kremlin critic Anna Politkovskaya. The verdict, however, was later overturned by Russia's Supreme Court, which ordered a new trial.

The Kremlin's human-rights council has raised the issue of Russia's conviction rate with Mr Medvedev, saying judges turn a blind eye to procedural violations by investigators and prosecutors in order to avoid being forced to issue acquittals that could negatively impact their judicial careers. Mr Medvedev, a lawyer by profession, even sounded stunned when confronted with Russia's acquittal rate. At a meeting with his human-rights council in November, Mr Medvedev was informed by the council member Mara Polyakova that, according to official data, just 0.8 per cent of all defendants were acquitted in 2008.

Mr Medvedev asked Ms Polyakova to repeat the figure, saying "maybe I misheard", according to a transcript of the meeting on the council's website. After a council member repeated the statistic, Mr Medvedev said he thought the number was "incorrect". "I'll call the Supreme Court chairman," Mr Medvedev said. "We probably have few [acquittals], but I heard different figures, not 0.8 per cent. I'll follow up. I'd like to find out for myself."


Catchweight 82kg
Piotr Kuberski (POL) beat Ahmed Saeb (IRQ) by decision.

Women’s bantamweight
Corinne Laframboise (CAN) beat Cornelia Holm (SWE) by unanimous decision.

Omar Hussein (PAL) beat Vitalii Stoian (UKR) by unanimous decision.

Josh Togo (LEB) beat Ali Dyusenov (UZB) by unanimous decision.

Isaac Pimentel (BRA) beat Delfin Nawen (PHI) TKO round-3.

Catchweight 80kg​​​​​​​
Seb Eubank (GBR) beat Emad Hanbali (SYR) KO round 1.

Mohammad Yahya (UAE) beat Ramadan Noaman (EGY) TKO round 2.

Alan Omer (GER) beat Reydon Romero (PHI) submission 1.

Juho Valamaa (FIN) beat Ahmed Labban (LEB) by unanimous decision.

Elias Boudegzdame (ALG) beat Austin Arnett (USA) by unanimous decision.

Super heavyweight
Maciej Sosnowski (POL) beat Ibrahim El Sawi (EGY) by submission round 1.

Company profile

Name: Tabby
Founded: August 2019; platform went live in February 2020
Founder/CEO: Hosam Arab, co-founder: Daniil Barkalov
Based: Dubai, UAE
Sector: Payments
Size: 40-50 employees
Stage: Series A
Investors: Arbor Ventures, Mubadala Capital, Wamda Capital, STV, Raed Ventures, Global Founders Capital, JIMCO, Global Ventures, Venture Souq, Outliers VC, MSA Capital, HOF and AB Accelerator.

Common OCD symptoms and how they manifest

Checking: the obsession or thoughts focus on some harm coming from things not being as they should, which usually centre around the theme of safety. For example, the obsession is “the building will burn down”, therefore the compulsion is checking that the oven is switched off.

Contamination: the obsession is focused on the presence of germs, dirt or harmful bacteria and how this will impact the person and/or their loved ones. For example, the obsession is “the floor is dirty; me and my family will get sick and die”, the compulsion is repetitive cleaning.

Orderliness: the obsession is a fear of sitting with uncomfortable feelings, or to prevent harm coming to oneself or others. Objectively there appears to be no logical link between the obsession and compulsion. For example,” I won’t feel right if the jars aren’t lined up” or “harm will come to my family if I don’t line up all the jars”, so the compulsion is therefore lining up the jars.

Intrusive thoughts: the intrusive thought is usually highly distressing and repetitive. Common examples may include thoughts of perpetrating violence towards others, harming others, or questions over one’s character or deeds, usually in conflict with the person’s true values. An example would be: “I think I might hurt my family”, which in turn leads to the compulsion of avoiding social gatherings.

Hoarding: the intrusive thought is the overvaluing of objects or possessions, while the compulsion is stashing or hoarding these items and refusing to let them go. For example, “this newspaper may come in useful one day”, therefore, the compulsion is hoarding newspapers instead of discarding them the next day.

Source: Dr Robert Chandler, clinical psychologist at Lighthouse Arabia


Engine: 2-litre 4-cylinder petrol (V Class); electric motor with 60kW or 90kW powerpack (EQV)
Power: 233hp (V Class, best option); 204hp (EQV, best option)
Torque: 350Nm (V Class, best option); TBA (EQV)
On sale: Mid-2024
Price: TBA


Started: 2018

Founders: Eslam Hussein and Pulkit Ganjoo

Based: Dubai

Sector: Transport

Size: 9 employees

Investment: $1,275,000

Investors: Class 5 Global, Equitrust, Gulf Islamic Investments, Kairos K50 and William Zeqiri


Company name: Revibe
Started: 2022
Founders: Hamza Iraqui and Abdessamad Ben Zakour
Based: UAE
Industry: Refurbished electronics
Funds raised so far: $10m
Investors: Flat6Labs, Resonance and various others

8 UAE companies helping families reduce their carbon footprint

Greenheart Organic Farms 

This Dubai company was one of the country’s first organic farms, set up in 2012, and it now delivers a wide array of fruits and vegetables grown regionally or in the UAE, as well as other grocery items, to both Dubai and Abu Dhabi doorsteps.


Founded in Australia, Modibodi is now in the UAE with waste-free, reusable underwear that eliminates the litter created by a woman’s monthly cycle, which adds up to approximately 136kgs of sanitary waste over a lifetime.

The Good Karma Co

From brushes made of plant fibres to eco-friendly storage solutions, this company has planet-friendly alternatives to almost everything we need, including tin foil and toothbrushes.


One Dubai boutique, Re:told, is taking second-hand garments and selling them on at a fraction of the price, helping to cut back on the hundreds of thousands of tonnes of clothes thrown into landfills each year.


Lush provides products such as shampoo and conditioner as package-free bars with reusable tins to store.

Bubble Bro 

Offering filtered, still and sparkling water on tap, Bubble Bro is attempting to ensure we don’t produce plastic or glass waste. Founded in 2017 by Adel Abu-Aysha, the company is on track to exceeding its target of saving one million bottles by the end of the year.


This company offers refillable, eco-friendly home cleaning and hygiene products that are all biodegradable, free of chemicals and certifiably not tested on animals.

Eggs & Soldiers

This bricks-and-mortar shop and e-store, founded by a Dubai mum-of-four, is the place to go for all manner of family products – from reusable cloth diapers to organic skincare and sustainable toys.

Inside Out 2

Director: Kelsey Mann

Starring: Amy Poehler, Maya Hawke, Ayo Edebiri

Rating: 4.5/5

The years Ramadan fell in May





Drivers’ championship standings after Singapore:

1. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes - 263
2. Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari - 235
3. Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes - 212
4. Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull - 162
5. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari - 138
6. Sergio Perez, Force India - 68

The specs: 2018 Mercedes-Benz E 300 Cabriolet

Price, base / as tested: Dh275,250 / Dh328,465

Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder

Power: 245hp @ 5,500rpm

Torque: 370Nm @ 1,300rpm

Transmission: Nine-speed automatic

Fuel consumption, combined: 7.0L / 100km

Company Profile

Company name: Hoopla
Date started: March 2023
Founder: Jacqueline Perrottet
Based: Dubai
Number of staff: 10
Investment stage: Pre-seed
Investment required: $500,000


Director: Rajesh A Krishnan

Starring: Tabu, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Kriti Sanon

Rating: 3.5/5

Explainer: Tanween Design Programme

Non-profit arts studio Tashkeel launched this annual initiative with the intention of supporting budding designers in the UAE. This year, three talents were chosen from hundreds of applicants to be a part of the sixth creative development programme. These are architect Abdulla Al Mulla, interior designer Lana El Samman and graphic designer Yara Habib.

The trio have been guided by experts from the industry over the course of nine months, as they developed their own products that merge their unique styles with traditional elements of Emirati design. This includes laboratory sessions, experimental and collaborative practice, investigation of new business models and evaluation.

It is led by British contemporary design project specialist Helen Voce and mentor Kevin Badni, and offers participants access to experts from across the world, including the likes of UK designer Gareth Neal and multidisciplinary designer and entrepreneur, Sheikh Salem Al Qassimi.

The final pieces are being revealed in a worldwide limited-edition release on the first day of Downtown Designs at Dubai Design Week 2019. Tashkeel will be at stand E31 at the exhibition.

Lisa Ball-Lechgar, deputy director of Tashkeel, said: “The diversity and calibre of the applicants this year … is reflective of the dynamic change that the UAE art and design industry is witnessing, with young creators resolute in making their bold design ideas a reality.”

Hotel Silence
Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir
Pushkin Press


Director: Ric Roman Waugh

Stars: Gerard Butler, Navid Negahban, Ali Fazal

Rating: 2.5/5

Director: Nag Ashwin

Starring: Prabhas, Saswata Chatterjee, Deepika Padukone, Amitabh Bachchan, Shobhana

Rating: ★★★★


• Juice jacking, in the simplest terms, is using a rogue USB cable to access a device and compromise its contents

• The exploit is taken advantage of by the fact that the data stream and power supply pass through the same cable. The most common example is connecting a smartphone to a PC to both transfer data and charge the former at the same time

• The term was first coined in 2011 after researchers created a compromised charging kiosk to bring awareness to the exploit; when users plugged in their devices, they received a security warning and discovered that their phones had paired to the kiosk, according to US cybersecurity company Norton

• While juice jacking is a real threat, there have been no known widespread instances. Apple and Google have also added security layers to prevent this on the iOS and Android devices, respectively

Most Read
Top Videos

View from London

Your weekly update from the UK and Europe

      By signing up, I agree to The National's privacy policy
      View from London