Letter: A new wave of show trials in Russia

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The Independent Online
Sir: Referring to the former Soviet army general who, in support of the Russian constitution, sided with the Russian Parliament against Boris Yeltsin, your correspondent Helen Womack reported (14 October): 'The opening of criminal proceedings against Mr Makashov marks the ignominious end to his career.'

Under the rule of law, in a democratic society, it would be necessary to wait until the conclusion of criminal proceedings before determining whether or not a person's fate was sealed. What we have in prospect in Russia now is a series of 'show trials' - an ironic reversal of the situation at the and of the Thirties when it was the Communist dictatorship that stagemanaged the legal charades which put paid to their opponents.

Mr Yeltsin - illegally - abolished and laid siege to parliament, then crushed its resistance with tanks. He subsequently forced the president of the Constitutional Court out of office, closing the country's highest court, and sacked the state prosecutor - in addition to firing regional and local councils opposed to him, closing opposition newspapers and banning political parties.

The rule of law has ceased to exist in Russia and has been replaced by rule by decree, which - while it may have a more pleasant ring and so slip easily into the weasel- word vocabulary of the 'Yeltsin right or wrong' Western establishment - is merely a euphemism for dictatorship. Political power, as Mao said, now comes out of the barrel of a gun.

In these circumstances, it is clear also that the electoral process, hastily convened for 12 December - the management of which is entirely in the hands of Mr Yeltsin - will also be a charade. After all, most of the opposition leaders are either in prison or banned from taking part in politics.

Yours faithfully,

PATRICK REYNOLDS

Luxembourg

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