A Russian who served time for someone else's crime was acquitted after 64 years: the authorities ignored the evidence
The struggle of 86-year-old Fathulla Iskhakov to defend his honest name ended in triumph. Today, the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation found him not guilty of the murder for which he was convicted back in 1959. Vitaly Burkin, the defender of this unbending man, spoke about the ups and downs of this long struggle.
The story began in May of the distant 1959 in the Bashkir village of Raevka. At night, when 22-year-old Fathullah, his young wife and small child were sleeping peacefully, a crying neighbor burst into their house. Her hands and face were covered in blood. She said that an unknown person attacked her and her friend. Fathullah kept her at his place and called the police.
But then things didn't go the way they were supposed to. Four young fellow villagers testified against Iskhakov. In addition, according to the investigation, his guilt was indicated by the fact that the girl's blood was found in his house. Fathullah was accused of breaking into the house where the girlfriends were sleeping that night and attacking them with an axe. They managed to survive, although one of them, according to the conclusion of the forensic expert, was badly injured: she received a concussion. Later, however, it turned out that the conclusion was erroneous, there was no ax, the girls received cuts with a knife. The one who came running at night to seek salvation from her neighbors explained how her blood ended up in the Iskhakovs' house. But this will happen years later, and then, in 1959, Fathullah was accused of attempted murder and sentenced to 15 years in prison, of which he spent 13 behind bars.
“He started fighting from the very beginning,” says Burkin. - And during the investigation, when he denied everything, and later, when he was serving an undeserved sentence, and when he was released.
Even when Fathullah was behind bars, one of those who slandered him confessed, but this did not affect anything. More and more evidence of his innocence appeared, but the authorities ignored them. Iskhakov's judicial epic began in the 1980s. But all his efforts to get the truth were still in vain. The turning point came in 2013, when a real criminal, a former fellow villager of Fathulla, 72-year-old Nail Saitbattalov, came to the investigative committee with a confession. As it turned out, he committed the crime out of jealousy. Nail entered the house where his lover and girlfriend were sleeping and cut them with a knife. And then he became a key "witness" against a fellow villager. It would seem that Iskhakov needs to be rehabilitated. But no.
- The problem is that the procedure for the production of newly discovered circumstances is quite complicated, - explains Burkin. - In order to return to the case again, you need the conclusion of the prosecutor. And the prosecutors did nothing. In 2015, the prosecutor of the republic submitted an opinion to the Supreme Court of Bashkortostan to overturn the verdict, but then withdrew it.
The courts of all instances refused to return to the case without the conclusion of the prosecutor's office. In the end, Fathullah reached the Supreme Court of Russia, but even there they were disappointed. Hope remained only on the Constitutional Court. The lawyer prepared the case for several months, it took several more months to consider it.
“Finally, in December 2021, the court recognized that in order to overturn the verdict due to newly discovered and new circumstances, it is possible to do without the conclusion of the prosecutor,” Burkin said. - The court itself can rehabilitate the innocent.
But it didn't end there either. The Supreme Court sent the case for a new trial to the Sixth General Court of Cassation ... and there it again stuck for a whole year and a half.
“As a result, according to my sources, Vyacheslav Lebedev, Chairman of the Supreme Court, found out about this situation and was very angry,” says Burkin. - And I don't know if this is connected or not, but yesterday the chairman of the Sixth Court of Cassation was fired.
The case of the unshakable Ufa citizen returned to the Supreme Court again, and now he is finally acquitted.
“The most important decision has been made today,” Burkin emphasizes with enthusiasm. - Before that, there was no practice of overturning sentences due to newly discovered circumstances in the country at all. This will help other wrongfully convicted.