Page last updated at 13:43 GMT, Tuesday, 27 May 2008 14:43 UK

Russian justice 'fails thousands'

By James Rodgers
BBC News, Moscow

Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev
President Medvedev says Russia's courts should be more independent

Russia's prosecutor-general has admitted that thousands of people are wrongly charged with criminal offences in the country each year.

Yury Chaika has promised measures to remedy the situation.

His remarks come a week after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said that an independent court system needed to be created in the country.

The Kremlin's critics have long claimed that the law in Russia is selectively applied and politically manipulated.

But Mr Chaika's comments represent one of the few times that a senior official has publicly conceded that there are major failings in Russia's justice system.

He said that in 2007 alone, a total 5,265 people were eventually exonerated after being wrongly charged.

Mr Chaika was speaking at a meeting to discuss compensation for those who had been illegally prosecuted.

He laid the majority of the blame on his own staff, who, he said, must prevent abuses of citizens' rights.

Last week, Mr Medvedev spoke of the need to make Russia's courts independent.

Russia's new leader - a lawyer by profession - described the current legal system as one in which decisions were reached after pressure and for money.

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