Russia Supreme Court refuses to rehabilitate Tsar

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MOSCOW, Nov 8 (Reuters) Russia's Supreme Court rejected an appeal from monarchists today to rehabilitate the last Tsar because Nicholas II, executed in 1918 along with his family, was never formally charged.

Bolshevik revolutionaries shot Nicholas, his wife and their five children without a trial in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg to prevent them falling into the hands of advancing counter-revolutionary forces.

Russian prosecutors say the execution of the Tsar and his family was premeditated murder, albeit with political motives.

''The Romanov family cannot be rehabilitated because the definition of rehabilitation is being cleared of an accusation and they were not accused of anything,'' prosecutor Inessa Kovalevskaya told the hearing.

Human rights campaigners reacted with outrage to the ruling.

''It was a political decision.. it had nothing to do with the law,'' Arseny Roginsky, head of the rights group Memorial, told Reuters.

''The (Supreme) Court has come out as the last defender of the Soviet regime.'' German Lukyanov, the monarchists' lawyer, said his clients would appeal to the Presidium of the Supreme Court, Russia's final legal instance, and if necessary to the European Court of Human Rights.

Judging by the Supreme Court's ruling ''the tsar's family were not victims of political repression and their rights were not violated'', he said.

PREMEDITATED MURDER Attempts by Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna, a claimant to the Russian imperial throne, to win legal rehabilitation for Nicholas and his family in lower courts have already failed.

Maria Vladimirovna argued the imperial family should be treated in the same way as victims of Russia's political purges, most of whom received official posthumous pardons.

Kovalevskaya said a five-year investigation into the deaths of the imperial family had failed to turn up any court orders on their shooting. ''Letters and memoirs of eyewitnesses cannot be a substitute for evidence,'' she said.

The Russian Orthodox Church has canonised Nicholas II and his family as martyrs and built a church over the site of their execution. It urged officials to look beyond legal reasons.

''It is difficult to question legal arguments,'' RIA news agency quoted Georgy Ryabykh, secretary of the church's foreign relations committee as saying.

''But there are also moral arguments like the need to restore historical justice.'' Roginsky said he believed the real reason for the verdict was the authorities' fear of opening a Pandora's box by re-evaluating key historical events.

''They refused to rehabilitate the Romanovs because they know that after that they will have to take another logical step towards admitting that Lenin and his entourage were criminals,'' he said.

Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna lives in Spain and regards herself as the lawful heir to the Romanov imperial throne. Not all Russian monarchists accept her claim and there is scant support among ordinary Russians for restoring the monarchy.

Reuters NC DB2250

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