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Russia lower house advances bill to end jury trials for terrorism suspects

[JURIST] The Russian State Duma [official website, in Russian] on Friday gave first reading to a bill that would ban jury trials for terrorism, espionage, and treason, among other crimes. In a vote of 351 to 34 [AP report] with no abstentions, the lower house of parliament approved the bill that proponents call necessary as a result of lenient jurors [Moscow Times report]. Opponents fear that the new law could be used to punish opposition leaders. The bill must now be presented for two more readings before being sent to the upper house of parliament, and finally to President Dmitry Medvedev.

In February, a panel of jurists reported that Russia's anti-terrorism laws were leading to human rights abuses [JURIST report]. In 2006, the Russian government passed laws [JURIST report] giving Russian police and military broad authority to tap telephone conversations and control electronic communications in the vicinity of counter-terror operations, shoot down hijacked planes threatening public places or strategic facilities, and deal with the aftermath of terrorist attacks.

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